Michael Barone

Has the wind gone out of the sails of the smaller government movement? Is the tea party movement going through a hangover?

 

You can find some evidence for these propositions. In Washington, Democrats like former National Chairman Howard Dean look forward gleefully to a government shutdown, and Sen. Charles Schumer thinks he can drive a wedge between Speaker John Boehner and "extremist" tea partiers.

And in state capitals some new Republican governors are getting hostile receptions to their plans for cutting spending and curtailing the power of public employee unions.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has only 30 percent approval, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett, easily elected last November, has negative ratings as well.

And in the state that has made more headlines than any other this year, Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is facing some headwinds. He did get the Republican legislature to pass limits on the bargaining powers of state employee unions. And union dues aren't going to be deducted from public employees' next paychecks.

But the Democratic state senators' tactic of leaving the state and the often violent protests at the state Capitol have mobilized public employee unions and their supporters.

A Polling Company poll conducted for Independent Women's Voice showed 53 percent of voters with unfavorable feelings toward Walker and only 46 percent favorable. By a similar margin voters sided with the public employee unions over the governor in the recent controversy.

It should be noted that this poll has a small sample and a larger share of voters in union households (38 percent) than in the 2008 and 2010 Wisconsin exit polls (26 percent). And on issues of this kind, question wording can make a big difference in responses.

Next Tuesday, voters will have their say in an election for state Supreme Court. Incumbent Republican David Prosser is being challenged by Democrat Jo Anne Kloppenberg, who is giving strong hints that she'll uphold a dubious ruling by a lower court that the legislature acted illegally in limiting public employee unions' powers. A Prosser defeat would give Democrats a 4-3 edge on the court.

Off-year elections tend to have low turnout, and the public employee unions are working hard to get their voters out. It's unclear whether tea partiers and others whose enthusiasm and energy transformed Wisconsin from a 56-42 percent Obama state in 2008 to a 52-46 percent Walker state in 2010 will be similarly energized.

In addition, both parties have threatened to recall at least some of the other side's state senators. Recall petitions are being circulated and require relatively few signatures.


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