Michael Barone, who has forgotten more about politics than most people will ever know (having met him in person, and talked to him at length about political issues, I can testify firsthand to the fact that he is an utterly brilliant analyst), points to Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie as the two politicians doing the most to push Congressional Republicans, and the Republican party in general, to take bolder stances on the issues of the day. Barone quotes from recent speeches–Daniels’s at CPAC, and Christie’s at the American Enterprise Institute–where both governors took on the issue of America’s parlous fiscal situation, and the pressing need for entitlement reform. As Barone points out, both Daniels and Christie were blunt, plainspoken, and honest in addressing these issues in their speeches, and both governors have been repeatedly willing to put their political futures on the line to present the public at large with some basic, important facts on these issues.
The fact that both governors are speaking out the way they are is laudable, of course. We make it something of a fetish to demand politicians that will put spin aside, and will tell us the truth about the challenges we face. Daniels and Christie are acting like the very politicians we like to claim that we want; bold, honest, and willing to put the national interest above their own career interests in offering commentary on important issues.
The question is whether Daniels and Christie will be listened to. They should be. Their comments have the virtue of being popular, in addition to being on-target. As Barone writes:
Daniels and Christie both said that in traveling around their states they get the sense that voters support their major policy changes and are ready for more. The political numbers tend to back them up.
Daniels was elected to a second term in 2008 by a 58 to 40 percent margin, even as Barack Obama was carrying the state. In 2010 Republicans transformed the Indiana House from 52-48 Democratic to 60-40 Republican, and their margin in the state Senate is 37-13.
In the popular vote for U.S. House of Representatives, a good proxy for national partisan sentiment, Republicans in Indiana led 56 to 39 percent in 2010, up 10 points from 2008.
New Jersey’s House popular vote was 51 to 47 percent Republican in 2010, the best Republican performance there since 1994. It’s a bit lower than Christie’s current job approval of 54 percent and a bit higher than the 49 percent plurality he won in the 2009 election.
Daniels and Christie have been in the trenches, facing opposition legislatures, addressing fundamental issues and getting results voters like. Are congressional Republicans listening?
One certainly hopes so. Daniels and Christie have a message that is attracting plaudits not only from the pundit class, but from the voting public as well. It’s a message that is sound on policy, and can get votes. Republicans nationwide should embrace it as their own. Doing so is as close to a no-brainer as we are likely to see in politics.