36 | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION
28 | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION
"Nathan's a blue blood, and I'm a redneck," Nick Ayers says of his good buddy and political archenemy Nathan Daschle. "I taught him to hunt, and he taught me how to eat lobster." Despite their red-state–blue-state differences, the two are proof that bipartisanship can be more than just stump-speech rhetoric. Ayers and Daschle, who've headed the nation's rival governors' associations for almost four years, raise eyebrows among their party peers as they hang out and vacation together despite being engaged in a pitched battle for 37 statehouses this November. The stakes are high: These post-census elections will influence the congressional-districting landscape for the next decade. "We've realized we have way more in common outside of politics," Daschle says. "We are both relatively young, for starters." And exceptional at their jobs. Ayers has raised more in the first half of 2010 than the RGA had during the entire 2006 election season—while Daschle, son of former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, has a strategy that will triple the DGA's highest-ever output in an election cycle. "Collectively our organizations are going to spend over $100 million this year," Daschle says. At which point Ayers, who has bragging rights after Republican gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia in 2009, can't help but rib him: "So you're only going to have $10 million?" Daschle playfully jabs back: "I'm hoping Nick is a miserable failure at his job."