Tomorrow night, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening will stand at the White House, raise a glass and offer a toast to his new good friend, President Bush - the same man he bashed repeatedly through last fall's campaign.
That contentious history will be put aside - if not forgotten - during much of the next four days as Glendening presides over the annual winter meeting of the National Governors' Association in Washington.
Glendening assumed the chairmanship of the group last summer, but the Washington conference is his first opportunity to head a major NGA event.
For the governor, it means four days of high-level policy discussions, news conferences and closed-door meetings with other governors and the president.
But when he's not running the nonpartisan NGA meetings, Glendening will be raising campaign money and plotting political strategy with his fellow Democratic governors in a series of partisan meetings.
Glendening said he will have to avoid mixing the two roles.
"My responsibility will be to walk a tightrope," he said in an interview in the governor's mansion yesterday during a break from his NGA briefing books. "The question is, at the end of four days, will I be one person or will I be split into two entirely different personalities?"
Glendening is in the midst of a year in which he has seen his national profile go up measurably.
He won a speaking role at the Democratic National Convention last August, campaigned in several states for Al Gore's presidential bid and gained widespread attention for his Smart Growth policies.
While NGA conferences rarely produce major news, they give the group's leaders a moment in the national spotlight.
"In general, I think it's one of those mutual-admiration societies," said Kevin Igoe, a consultant to the Maryland Republican Party. "But he gets a national forum to push his policies, such as Smart Growth."
The NGA is a nonpartisan group that brings governors together to discuss issues and influence national policy in areas such as education and health care.
As chairman, Glendening must serve as the nonpartisan leader, an unusual role for the staunch Democrat. Fifty-two governors - including ones from American territories - are expected to attend at least part of the conference.
While some discussion will focus on Glendening's pet issue - combating suburban sprawl - the get-together will focus on building ties between the nation's governors and the new Republican administration in Washington.
President Bush will have the governors over for dinner tomorrow night and sit down to talk issues Monday morning. For the first time in eight years, the governors are gathering in Washington with a new president in the White House.
"The entire NGA is feeling out what its relationship is with the president, even the Republicans and independents," Glendening said. "We're all trying to sort out where we are."
Glendening said that while he has met Bush at NGA events, the former Texas governor was not a major player in the organization.
"He attended the meetings in a kind of photo-op way, to be quite candid," Glendening said of Bush.
During a series of discussions, the governors will attempt to find common ground on key issues.
Glendening, like perhaps every other governor, is concerned about the spiraling cost of Medicaid, the government's health-insurance program for the poor.
And on education, many governors worry that states may have to absorb some of the cost of Bush's reform plan, which calls for more testing and penalties for low-performing schools.
Any policy positions the NGA takes on such issues will be carefully worded to reflect wide consensus across party lines. And with 29 Republican governors, the group will be unlikely to take positions that conflict with Bush's agenda.
But Glendening will also have several opportunities to play the good Democrat because the Democratic Governors' Association, a highly partisan group, will also be doing business in Washington, beginning today.
Glendening is an active member and will become chairman of the DGA after he leaves the chairmanship of the NGA. He says he has raised more than $300,000 for a fund-raising event at Union Station on Monday night for Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
In such DGA forums, Glendening will be free to offer unvarnished views of Bush's plans on issues such as taxes.
"The Democratic governors, like the Democratic members of Congress, are very concerned about the full impact of the Bush tax cut," Glendening said. "The greatest beneficiaries are our richest families."
And what might Glendening say in his official toast at the White House tomorrow?
"The toast will be gracious," the governor said, "and I'll wish him well for the well-being of the country."