President Obama toasts governors and their bipartisanship

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2010 Governors' Ball on Sunday night, a festive black-tie dinner for state chief executives and their spouses, as well as members of the Obama administration.

The evening marked the culmination of the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, and despite a frosty political environment just a few blocks away in Congress the atmosphere at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was friendly and convivial.

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The State Dining Room was aglow with candlelight, and guests dined on a four-course menu of French onion soup, a rib-eye steak and shrimp surf-and-turf entree, a seven-layer salad, and baked Alaska for dessert. The meal was served on china patterns from the Clinton, Johnson, Kennedy, and Franklin Roosevelt administrations.

Obama opened his toast with a joke, remarking, “This is not too stiff of an affair, because last year [Pennsylvania Gov.] Ed Rendell led a conga line.”

Obama went on to praise the governors for their ability to make tough choices in a difficult economy and work across party lines. He also said Washington could learn from the way governors set aside ideological differences to get things done, because "the rubber hits the road with you.”

He also praised the chairman of the National Governors Association, Vermont's Jim Douglas (R), whom he called an “extraordinary partner with this White House. Always constructive, always thoughtful.”

Douglas returned the courtesy, raising his glass toward the president and offering a toast to “you, the first lady and the people of this great country.”
 
Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) was seated to the first lady's right, a traditional position of distinction; Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) was also seated with Mrs. Obama. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, were seated at a center table in the front of the room.

A few tables away, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was seated next to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D), and the two clinked glasses at the close of the toasts.
 

Also spotted were Democratic Govs. David Paterson of New York and Bill Richardson of New Mexico, as well as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who were seated together.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist sat at a table with Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mike Beebe of Arkansas, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Notably absent was Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who in nine days will face Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) in the Republican gubernatorial primary election.