Mitch Daniels: Direct Populist Anger Towards Teachers

Indiana's GOP Governor Mitch Daniels has been the talk of the town in Washington as a potential 2012 White House aspirant, a seemingly can-do Republican among a group of ideologues. One big problem with this meme: Daniels is a pretty fierce conservative ideologue. (Another is that he was a key member of the Bush economic team as head of the Office of Management and Budget.) Here's Ben Smith, writing under the headline "Daniels' target: Greedy ... teachers?":

Some of the anger out there now, he said, is directed at "not just Wall Street or overpaid corporate CEOs but government employees and their unions."

Public education, he said, used to be "the bloody shirt of American politics," a kind of conversation stopper that could be invoked as a way of saying if you want cuts, "you hate children." Not anymore, he said, putting himself in the shoes of a voter who says, "The teacher next door I just figured out makes a lot more than I do but doesn't work all year."

Let's go to the actual numbers to see if Daniels is in fact correct in his assessment that Americans are just as angry at teacher pay as they are at CEO pay.

The latest data I could find on CEO compensation come from 2007, before the Great Recession, but they are nevertheless instructive. In June of that year, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey asked Americans, "In general, do you think most CEO's of large American companies are compensated too much, too little, or just about the right amount?" A whopping 81 percent of respondents said "too much"; just 1 percent said "too little"; and a paltry 14 percent said "just right".

Compare these numbers to those on teacher pay. A January 2010 poll from CBS News asked Americans, "As far as you know, do you think, on average, public school teachers in this country are paid too much, too little, or about the right amount?" The numbers are close to a mirror opposite of those on CEO pay. Fully two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) said public school teachers are not paid enough, while a quarter (24 percent) said they are paid about right. A mere 4 percent said public school teachers are paid too much.

Usually, when a politician lines himself up with a 4 percent minority of the public on the issue, he is not treated as being within the mainstream of American politics. Then again, I'm not holding my breath for the point at which the Beltway media stops fawning over Daniels.

Santorum Continuing to Test Presidential Waters

From The Hotline's Erin McPike:

Ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) is headed to Palmetto Country next month for a two-day campaign swing.

Santorum, who has already visited IA, will stop in Spartanburg, Greenville and Hilton Head to campaign for Rep. Gresham Barrett (R), who is locked in a tough GOP primary for GOV.

[...]

Santorum has been openly toying with a presidential run in '12. He acknowledged that a trip to IA in late September was designed to gin up interest in his own political future.

Given the complete and utter rejection of Rick Santorum by Pennsylvania voters in 2006, it's pretty remarkable that he could believe he is a serious presidential competitor. Indeed, his 58.6 percent to 41.3 percent loss in his last reelection bid was the worst showing by a Senate incumbent since George McGovern lost his run for a fourth term in 1980 by a 58.2 percent to 39.4 percent margin. But if Santorum wants to make a go of it and Republicans do decide to make him their standard bearer in 2012, you're not likely to hear many complaints from those hoping for a second term for Barack Obama.

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Obama Would Crush Palin

Not too surprising, but the latest Marist poll (via The Washington Independent) finds that Barack Obama simply crushes Sarah Palin in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup ahead of the 2012 elections.

56% of U.S. registered voters report they would cast their ballot for [Barack Obama] while 33% would vote for [Sarah] Palin.  It's probably not a shock that public opinion divides along party lines.  92% of Democrats would support Obama in this hypothetical contest while 73% of Republicans would back Palin.  Although President Obama does not receive a majority of Independents in this matchup, Obama does win nearly half -- 49% -- of this key voting group.  Palin receives 34% of their support.

To highlight a point raised by Dave Weigel, despite the fact that Palin remains an immensely popular figure among Republicans, she is unable to garner the support of more than three quarters of Republicans -- a death-knell for a candidate, particularly considering the fact that the GOP base has already shed so many voters in recent years. Republicans are thus stuck in the unenviable state of having one of their most compelling candidates, perhaps even their most popular one, is just not electable; to go with her could mean inevitable loss, but to go without her could mean a depressed (or at least not fully engaged) base.

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Career Lobbyist Barbour is the Answer for the GOP?

Reading some of the coverage of the Mark Sanford scandal, and watching the cable news dissect the story as well, it appears that the common wisdom is settling on the notion that the fall of the South Carolina Governor will serve to boost the presidential ambitions of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Go figure.

Don't get me wrong, I can understand the logic. Going into last week, Sanford was poised to be the new Southerner in the race for the GOP nomination, leaving little room for someone like Barbour to step to the fore -- particularly with Mike Huckabee seemingly angling for a second run in 2012. Barbour was trying, no doubt, scheduling trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. But his path to the nomination pre-Appalachian trails days seemed quite arduous. Now, with Sanford out of the way, perhaps Barbour does have a shot at becoming the GOP standard-bearer.

But is he really an answer for the Republican Party? As I have detailed before, Barbour is a career lobbyist. That's what he did before becoming Governor of Mississippi. It's not as if his current position erases his past ones. And I do wonder, can a career lobbyist really win the Presidency? It's hard for me to see that happening, particularly in a period not too far removed from the Jack Abramoff scandal and its spawn. But if the Republicans think that the best face of their party is a conservative white Southerner who spent a career in lobbying all the better for them.

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Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

Ben Smith earlier this week:

My instinct on the 2012 Republican field, with its crop of half-in-half-out governors, is that the people who are unambiguously angling for the job -- at this point, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee -- have a certain advantage.

I don't see it. There is simply very little real indication that candidates who start "unambiguously" running in the days and weeks after a President is inaugurated actually have an edge over those who get into the race later.

Having recently finished reading What it Takes, the outstanding book on the 1988 primaries, I do remember that presumptive Democratic favorite Gary Hart was pushed out of the race long before the first vote was cast and that Dick Gephardt, who had begun staking out Iowa in 1985, won that state and just about only that state.

Thinking back even just the past few years, it's not hard to remember that the big winners on the Republican side during the run up to 2008 were not the candidates with the strongest organizations, whether within a state or around the country, but rather a woefully underfunded former Governor (Mike Huckabee) and a big name who by the time voters were going to the polls had only about enough money to fly himself from state to state (John McCain). Mitt Romney, who started early and invested tens of millions of his own dollars didn't win, nor did Rudy Giuliani, whose endorsements and $59 million raised earned him a single delegate at the Republican National Convention.

This isn't to say that starting early is going to inhibit a candidate, Romney or otherwise. What's more, there have certainly been cases where the candidate organized earliest has won (though that has tended to be in cases where the candidate is an heir apparent like Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000). But the idea that those clearly in the race today have a real advantage seems like a conclusion based on common wisdom rather than actual reality, and I would be fairly surprised to see the eventual GOP field devoid of some strong late-breaking entrants.

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