Gov. Peter Shumlin's star turn in Washington, D.C., continued over the weekend as he mixed and mingled with the nation's governors — and the press.
Shumlin was in town for the winter meeting of the bipartisan National Governors Association. As we noted on Friday, he also spent plenty of time attending Democratic Governors Association fundraisers, though his aides declined to elaborate on his schedule.
For the second time in three weeks — and in his entire career — Shumlin appeared on a Sunday morning talk show, this time going head to head with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Fox News Sunday. Host Chris Wallace focused his toughest questions on Walker, who's currently battling accusations that his staff used public resources for political purposes.
But Wallace also pushed Shumlin on Vermont Health Connect's troubled rollout.
"Gov. Shumin, Vermont's exchange, I think it's fair to say, has been a mess," Wallace began.
"Well, no, it hasn't," Shumlin interjected.
"Let me just finish," Wallace said. "I mean, there have been big problems with both small businesses and individuals trying to sign up. No?"
"No," Shumlin said. "Listen —"
"No?" Wallace pressed.
"There isn't an exchange in the country that hasn't had a challenge with the rollout," Shumlin said. "We acknowledge that. But Vermont happens to be the state that has signed up more people per capita for affordable health care than any other state in the nation, including the federal exchange. So, you know, you've got to keep all this in context. But listen, here's the point —"
"Aren't small businesses still having a problem because the back-end hasn't been built?" Wallace interjected.
"Small businesses can't sign up on the exchange. Individuals have. We've gotten everybody in," Shumlin said, adding that, "Websites get fixed. We're fixing ours. They're fixing theirs."
Fast-forward to 3:29 to watch the exchange:
Shumlin appeared to spend much of the weekend talking to reporters about the scandals plaguing Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, telling the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty, "the notion that these folks were the Republican party reformers is officially dead."
"If they want to travel around the country promoting their ethical challenges, that only helps me elect Democratic governors," Shumlin said. "My point is, team, I don't have investigations going on in the Democratic governors. We don't get indicted."
"I'm just grateful that I don't have Democratic governors who have those challenges," he told Time's Zeke Miller. "We don't get indicted, we don't get criminal investigations — we create jobs."
Making light of accusations that Christie's aides caused a major traffic jam to punish a political opponent, Shumlin told the Associated Press, "Gov. Christie may be hiding under a bridge somewhere or stuck in traffic, but the fact that he's a liability for Republican governors remains readily apparent this weekend."
The Huffington Post appeared impressed with Shumlin's performance, headlining a story about him: "Chris Christie's Foil, a Northeastern Liberal, Makes His Way on the National Stage."
Reporter Jon Ward focused much of the piece on the governor's argument that states should lead the way in innovative public policy:
And the 57-year old governor also had a conservative-sounding talking point about how governance should be bottom-up, not top down. "I've always been a big believer in local control, in believing that the best ideas are hatched in small or big states, and the rest of the country gets around," he said.
But he wasn't talking about limiting the size of government, necessarily.
"I don't think there's any better example of that than the marriage-equality struggle. We created civil unions when I was president of the [state] Senate 12 years ago, and people thought we were crazy," Shumlin said. "It was a really tough discussion in Vermont. But people thought we had lost our minds. Now the 17th state just adopted marriage with no fanfare. The states should be the laboratories for change."
When Ward asked Shumlin whether he watches Netflix's "House of Cards," the governor said that the show "reminds me of every reason why I never want to have to serve in Washington, D.C."
Note to self: Pull this story when Shumlin runs for the U.S. Senate in 2016 or 2018.