May 6, 2009


Indiana's Daniels On Changing The 'Party Of No' Image: Popular Republican Governor Reflects On The GOP's First 100 Days As The Opposition Party (National Journal, May 2, 2009)

While Barack Obama carried Indiana last November -- the first time since LBJ that a Democrat accomplished that feat -- Republican incumbent Gov. Mitch Daniels rolled up the largest vote total of any statewide candidate in Hoosier history. The governor is also steeped in Washington politics, having served as the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, chief of the political and intergovernmental affairs shops in Ronald Reagan's White House, and George W. Bush's first Office of Management and Budget director. Daniels spoke recently with National Journal's James A. Barnes about how his party was faring during Obama's first 100 days in office. Edited excerpts follow. [...]

NJ: What do you think is the biggest lesson that the Republicans haven't quite learned yet from the last election?

Daniels: Always have a better idea. Let me tell you how this looks from out here -- and we're anomalous. In Indiana, Republicans are the party of change and reform; ask anybody -- our opponents, the press, everybody. In the rhythm of life here, four years ago we replaced a 16-year regime that had gone stale.

And so we are the party that restored fiscal integrity. We are the party that addressed health care for the uninsured. We are the party that rebuilt an attractive business environment. We are the party that cleaned up the ethics issues in government -- that and much more. We attacked our infrastructure problem in a novel and taxpayer-friendly way.

NJ: That you took a little heat over...

Daniels: Yes, yes, but you know, the results are in -- and incidentally, we just won with the largest vote total in the history of elections in our state for any office any year.

NJ: A tough year, too...

Daniels: In a tough year. Obama won the state -- you know that. I guess what I'm saying is that when Indiana Republicans meet, I always tell them we cannot control what the party looks like in other places or nationally, but here in Indiana if we don't remain the party always defining the agenda, bringing the new ideas and standing for constructive change, then people will excuse us from duty. And they should. ...

People want to know first of all that you hear them and understand what's going on in their lives. I work at this incessantly.

When we addressed health care for the uninsured, or insurance for those without, it's a very free-market solution -- it's basically HSA's for poor people -- and it's extraordinarily popular. I had a lady hugging me and crying down in a coffee shop in Connorsville Saturday morning because she got coverage -- I've had this experience a thousand times -- she got coverage and she couldn't possibly have had it any other way. I just think that the image problems we have are very real, but also addressable, by a Republican Party that goes out of its way to show that it cares about average people and the least advantaged.

Let me just go off on another one my little sermons I always give. Here's a political fact of life: You can be a blue-blood, silver spoon, coastal elitist, and if you have the Democratic label, you start with the presumption that you are connected to average folks. And the Republicans start with the negative presumption. So don't whine about it being unfair, just recognize it and go work on it.

NJ: Democrats and their allies have labeled the Republicans as "the party of no." Do you think that can stick?

Daniels: Do you know what's interesting about that? That's exactly the word I've been using for the last four years in Indiana. You can go Google it. In Indiana, the Democratic Party -- and by the way, it fits -- I've said they are the party of no, they are the party of yesterday. That's exactly our comment about our opponents here. So it shows that being negative or being without new ideas is not the province of any side.

...there's the governing party that ran on the Third Way and won and the losing party that says, "no" to it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at May 6, 2009 3:08 PM
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