“The danger for Mr. Obama was not that labor unions would fail to support him in 2012; the danger was that they would not support him enthusiastically, that their passions for him from four years ago would fade. That could translate into difficulty for Mr. Obama, especially in crucial states where union membership is high and presidential politics is competitive.
“Were it not for the battle in Wisconsin, Mr. Obama would have faced a difficult task: how to fire up the union voters without alienating the independents he is clearly trying to court; how to win back the left in general while embracing a more centrist, pragmatic agenda and seeking a more cooperative relationship with Republicans in Washington.
“But Mr. Walker, by sparking the Wisconsin fight over collective bargaining, may have awoken a sleeping giant, not only in his state but also across the nation.”
“Forget the recalls or the polling. Wisconsin has been too sweet. Remember Margaret Thatcher. She would suggest some bold initiative to her cabinet and then watch the empire’s bravest sons squirming in their red-cushioned seats at 10 Downing worrying about what the media might say and how their precious image might be affected. Mrs. T. would say to herself, in looking at those preening males: ‘And women are supposed to be vain?’ The point here — the lady who was not for turning used to say, ‘Controversy is good.’ That’s how we advance our agenda, how the public finds out what is going on, how the good guys win.
“The mistake political junkies always make is wildly overestimating how much detail normal folks have about politics and government. (Not a criticism of normal folks. They are sane. We are not.) So with Chris Christie and now Governor Walker, the public is just beginning to gets its head around the pay and benefits and pensions of state employees. And Wisconsin has brought the whole question of giving state employees not only civil-service protections but the kind of collective-bargaining rights that corrupt current politicians into giveaways that force generations of taxpayers into indentured servitude and ultimately hurt public employees by bankrupting their pension funds.
“So Walker’s numbers are irrelevant. Get into any controversy and the numbers tremble, but look at former Michigan governor John Engler and Christie and, for that matter, Thatcher and Reagan. People cut through the noise, figure it out and the political dividend is huge. I’m almost sorry Walker had this quick a victory.”
“It is questionable how much voters outside the state will care about the Wisconsin debate a year from now, given other issues like the health of the national economy, the debate over the federal budget and the war in Afghanistan. Two groups that may have longer memories are two core constituencies in the Democratic base: union households and voters who describe themselves as liberal. A Pew poll conducted earlier this month found that while there was little overall change in opinion of unions — the public went from having a favorable view of them by a 45 to 41 plurality to a 47 to 39 plurality, not a statistically significant increase — there were exceptions among these groups.
“In particular, the number of liberal Democrats who said they had a very favorable view of unions jumped to 32 percent from 14 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of labor household voters who held a very favorable view increased to 45 percent from 27 percent. There was no comparable change among conservative voters; the number of people who said they had a very unfavorable view of unions was roughly unchanged, both among the country as a whole and among different subgroups.
“Wisconsin, then, could motivate these groups to vote — something that they usually do fairly reliably, but did not in 2010…
“That does not mean that the Republican base will not have other issues to motivate them in 2012 — they will almost certainly have plenty. But the likelihood of an ‘enthusiasm gap’ of the sort that was present in 2010 has diminished.”