Michael Barone

In Illinois, would-be tax-raiser Pat Quinn, elevated to the governorship when Rod Blagojevich resigned, trails a little-known downstate Republican legislator.

In Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland, popular for his first two-and-a-half years, is only even with John Kasich, former chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee.

Perhaps most surprisingly, in the nation's No. 1 unemployment state, Michigan, voters are leaning toward replacing tax-raising Democrat Jennifer Granholm with one of the four Republicans running in the August primary over either of the two Democrats.

That's pretty good proof that in times of economic distress voters don't want to keep feeding the government beast, but believe it needs to cinch the belt a little tighter, as most Americans have been doing.

It's not only in America's big states that we're seeing this phenomenon. As former Economist editor Bill Emmott notes in London's Times, parties of the left have been getting shellacked all over Europe, most recently in Britain.

You might wonder whether spending cuts will prove as unpopular as big spending programs. That's unclear -- but there's an interesting test case in the nation's 16th largest state, Indiana.

In 2008, even while Indiana voters went 50 percent to 49 percent for Barack Obama, they re-elected spending-cutting Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels by a 58 percent to 40 percent margin. Daniels carried young voters 51 percent to 42 percent and college-educated voters 62 percent to 34 percent. He ran ahead of Ronald Reagan's 1984 showing in Indiana's most affluent county while winning 25 percent from blacks and 37 percent from Latinos. Among all these groups, he ran ahead of John McCain by double digits.

Daniels' skinflint instincts were unpopular with Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress when he headed the Office of Management and Budget in George W. Bush's first term. But they seem to have struck a chord with Hoosiers of all stripes.

His performance is evidence that the polls showing voters in our biggest states favoring smaller government may not just be a passing fancy. Congress may vote more money for the public employee unions. But in New York, Andrew Cuomo seems to have gotten the message.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM