In the absence of public information on the inner workings of the Russian political regime, especially during Medvedev's presidency, outside observers often have to rely on politicians' unguarded comments or subjective analysis. Instead, we turn to quantitative text analysis of political rhetoric. Treating governors as a quasi-expert panel, we argue that policy positions revealed in regional legislative addresses explain how elites perceived the distribution of power between Putin and Medvedev. We find that governors moved from a neutral position in 2009 to a clearly pro-Putin position in 2011, and that policy initiatives advocated by Medvedev all but evaporated from the rhetoric of governors in 2012. © 2014 © 2014 University of Glasgow.