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Red State + Blue State = Purple Governors

Friday, 7 Dec 2007 | 8:38 AM ET
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter

This is not something you'll hear me say often--I feel some political optimism blossoming in my soul. Yes, I'm a bit on the mature side for political naiveté, but after talking to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, and the first native born Coloradoan to be elected Governor in decades, I'm feeling a little tingle. Just in my extremities mind you, but it's there.

"After all, this IS the 21st century," Ritter says. He and I are standing on the steps of the state capitol building in Denver. At our feet it says that on this very spot we are exactly one mile above sea level. "If we don't get it now, then I'm not sure we will get it. The American people are tired of divisive politics. We are more divided politically, the parties, than we have ever been before." He does not look happy saying it.

Ritter, in office now 11 months, and Colorado will host the Democratic National Convention in August. It'll be held a stones throw, and let's hope there aren't any actually thrown, from where he and I are now standing.

"Do you have a horse in this race," I ask him. "No, I guess I'm using the convention as "cover", but we've decided that as "host governor" it's just best if I don't' endorse anyone," he answers.

That's not to say he isn't vitally interested. But what makes Ritter someone I wanted to talk too is the fact that I think he represents something a little different. He's a Democrat certainly, but there are issues both personal and fiscal that work outside what would be considered "traditional" Democratic beliefs.

I had the same feeling when we talked to governor Sarah Palin of Alaska a few weeks ago. She's a Republican, but both she and Ritter, and frankly most of the Western governors I've talked to so far, are free thinkers. Not bound by ideology, but willing to stand for what they believe as people and what they believe will be best for the people of their states. Even if it's not "traditional" Republican or Democratic dogma. They may be living and governing in "red" or "blue" states on the map, but they are "purple." A blend and that's encouraging.

"It's simple. We want to get things done. I just signed a letter with the governors of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, calling for more research on the issue of coal," I've asked him at this point about coal and how we might be able to use it. (The reality is that the U.S. has more than nearly anybody else on the planet. We're smart enough to figure this out aren't we?)

What's interesting about that letter is the people who signed it. Not all of one party or the other, but governors interested in how best to serve their people, and frankly, the rest of us.

The list of issues Ritter has on his agenda--education, alternative energy, fiscal responsibility--are issues that resonate across the West. And across political parties. Of course, I am a mile above sea level. I suppose that tingle I feel could be from the altitude. We'll see.

"MOA" can be seen three times a week on CNBC on "Power Lunch," which airs from noon till 2 pm EST. We'll be in Michigan and Ohio all next week. We'll see you along the road.

Questions? Comments? mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com