Power Play

What’s Driving Dem Strategy? 21 Million Government Workers

Chris Stirewalt discusses Tuesday's event with Andrea Saul of the Romney campaign and Ray Sullivan of the Perry campaign


Government Unions Dominate Dem Strategy; Romney Wants Perry to Keep Punching; Occupiers and Press in Symbiosis

What’s Driving Dem Strategy? 21 Million Government Workers

"It's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine; it's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers, and that's what this legislation is all about.”

-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a floor speech Wednesday.

When Vice President Joe Biden says that he wishes opponents of President Obama’s aid package for state and local government workers knew what it was like to be raped or robbed he’s not trying to pressure Republicans into passing the legislation as much as he is rallying his political base.

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While Biden certainly means to cast his political opponents as indifferent to sexual assault when he says he wishes Republicans knew what it was like to have “a 200-pound man standing over you, telling you to submit,” it’s not just about repeating one of the ugliest charges imaginable against his foes, it’s about firing up the most important constituency in the Democratic Party: government workers.

Democrats are working overtime to close the enthusiasm gap with Republicans (about 20 points in most polls) who are ready to boot out Obama. The president has been using increasingly caustic rhetoric against Republicans on the campaign trail and he and his party have even taken the risky step of embracing the spirited but often malodorous, always radical Occupy Wall Street movement.

Certainly the effort to demonize Republicans as rape-tolerant, billionaire toadies who prefer dirty air and water will continue and intensify as the Obama campaign begins its effort to sell skeptical independents on the president’s 2012 pitch: It could have been worse. But both moves – harsh rhetoric and the embrace of the anti-capitalist protest movement – will tend to alienate centrists, but it’s a risk Obama may have no choice but to take.

At a time when Obama would no doubt benefit more from reaching out to the center, he and his party have turned left. Having benefited so much from an enthusiasm edge in 2008 (primaries and general) and suffered from it in 2010, Obama believes that “fired up and ready to go” is more important than just numerical superiority.

Democrats currently hold a 5- to 10-percent advantage over Republicans in party identification among adults. That’s low by historical standards, but nothing to sneeze at. But getting those folks to the polls and having them out persuading the half of the nation that is now unaffiliated matters the most.

Before Democrats can start their appeal to the center, they have to get their fractious coalition back together. The president spent a lot of time this summer looking to placate groups organized around racial or ethnic grievances, many of which now have grievances against Obama for failing to deliver on their prior demands. His campaign is also spending tens of millions of dollars in a bid to re-inflate the long-deflated youth vote that provided a telegenic face and a pool of volunteers for Obama’s successful 2008 campaign.

But inside the Democratic base, nothing trumps government workers.

At the end of 2010, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics tallied up the ways in which Americans make their livings, there were about 103 million private sector workers in the United States compared to about 21 million public-sector workers.

But government workers are 40 percent unionized compared to the 7.7 unionization level of private-sector workers. That means that despite having a total workforce that is one-fifth the size of the private sector’s, there were more government workers represented by unions (8.41 million) than those employed by private enterprise (7.88 million).

Since the dues from those 8.41 million government workers are a major source of funding for the Democratic Party, that gives the big government worker organizations like SEIU and AFL-CIO huge clout inside the party. But what Democrats need most is to send those folks into the streets to denounce Republicans and get people to the polls to vote them out.

While Democrats came up short in their recall effort to punish Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin who restricted the collective bargaining power of government workers, they look much more likely to roll back a less expansive law passed in Ohio.

Unions say they may spend more than the $33 million they spent on Ohio’s gubernatorial election in failed support of then-incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland to win the low-turnout referendum on the law next month. Democrats are delighted at the idea because rolling back the law will preserve lots of dues automatically withheld for the SEIU and AFL-CIO from the paychecks of state workers, but it will also be a handy warm-up for next year’s presidential election.

While Democrats can rely on the fact that government workers know that Republicans mean bad news for public payrolls, it is crucial that the government worker unions be in a state of outrage and mobilization before the election.

Biden’s repeated rape comments, Obama’s uglier rhetoric as well as the strange assertion that private-sector unemployment is less of a problem than public-sector job loss are all part of an effort to galvanize and mobilize the most important bloc inside the Democratic Party.

Romney Tries to Keep Perry Off His Game

"I want to make the tax code so simple that even Timothy Geithner can file his taxes on time.”

-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry calling for a flat tax in a speech at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is working hard to keep his feud alive with Texas Gov. Rick Perry as Perry tries to shift into policy mode.

Romney continues to launch attacks on Perry as a career politician and a dummy with a harsh new Web video that shows all of the lowlights to Perry’s previous debate performances in rebuttal to Perry’s stronger showing this week. The Romney campaign has launched a new Web site and surrogates continue to hammer at the Texan.

The goal pretty clearly is to keep Perry throwing punches instead of making his own case. It’s worked so far. Romney badgered Perry on immigration for a month before Perry responded by reviving the story from the 2008 cycle about the illegal immigrants on Romney’s contracted grounds crew. It hurt Romney, but it blew back on Perry too.

With Romney rapidly consolidating establishment support and ahead of Perry in the polls, he can afford to bleed a bit if it keeps Perry from talking about himself or his own policies.

The new Romney attacks on Perry come as the Texan tries to build on Tuesday’s debate showing and his well-received energy plan by rolling out his call for a flat tax. Unlike Herman Cain’s idea for a national sales tax, there is fairly broad support inside the GOP for a flat tax, or at least a much flatter one.

The idea is to reduce deductions but reduce overall rates. While Steve Forbes won many converts to the idea of a truly flat one-size-fits all national income tax, current thinking is more in the line of establishing two or three, broad, simple bands of taxation. This is in keeping with the old Reagan and Kemp concepts about a tax code so simple you could “fill out your return on the back of a postage card.”

Romney was among the first in the GOP field to roll out his tax plan. He opted to avoid controversy in his 59-point economic plan and instead favored targeted, means-tested tax incentives. Newt Gingrich has warned that Romney is falling into a class-warfare trap by following the same income divisions as President Obama, but Romney backers say that Republicans have to be realistic and prepared for “99 percent” rhetoric.

But it’s not anything that will make Republicans stand up and cheer, especially given Romney’s decision to attack Perry from the left on entitlement reform.

Perry is looking to stand out as more conservative on taxes and entitlements, but won’t be able to do so if he plays the game with Romney of a bicker battle. When Romney put his hand on Perry at Tuesday’s debate he was pretty plainly daring the Texan to lose his cool. While Romney got flustery in the debate, Perry has more to lose if he seen as losing his cool. It’s not for nothing that Romney strategists are depicting Perry as a football player losing his cool and starting a fight in a football game – they want you to see Perry as a dumb jock.

The more insulting and personal the Romney attacks become, the harder it will be for Perry to resist the urge to swing back. But the only path to revival for Perry remains in convincing conservatives that he can be their champion, not in being in a fight with Romney.

Occupiers, Establishment Press Flatter Each Other

“We talk on the Internet about what happened in Egypt, about our structure, about our organization, how to organize a flash mob, how to organize a sit-in, how to be non-violent with police.”

-- Egyptian revolutionary Ahmed Maher talking to Wired magazine while on a tour to advise his “brothers” in the Occupy Wall Street encampments in Washington and New York.

A new Gallup/USA Today poll says that Americans blame Washington at more than twice the rate as they blame Wall Street for the nation’s continually poor economy – 64 percent look to D.C. while 30 percent eye the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

That doesn’t mean that many in the 64 percent don’t think part of the problem is Washington being in cahoots with financiers, but it certainly reinforces the idea that Americans blame bad policies for America’s malaise in the wake of the Panic of 2008.

But to read the press accounts, you’d think that the folks in Occupy Wall Street have tapped into a broad sentiment of rage simmering across the country. This is not just because of long-heard complaints about a liberal bias in the national press, but also because reporters want to be covering important things and involved in important stories.

The favoritism for Barack Obama in 2008 was partly bias, but mostly a result of reporters fanning the flames of the political story of a generation – a long-shot candidate who becomes the first-ever black president.

And so it goes with the Occupy movement. Reporters like to fancy that they are covering a broad-based movement like the Arab Spring that will shake the foundations of the world’s great power because that’s a whole lot better than saying what the White House calls “the professional left” and the two-decade old anti-globalization movement have rallied together around a cause.

It was more fun to say that the Tea Party was something big, bold and maybe dangerous than it was to say that the libertarian conservatives inside the GOP were having their Howard Beale moment and it’s more fun to try to make Zucotti Pary into Tahrir Square.

That it echoes the president’s message probably doesn’t hurt either.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“What about his support as a senator for the bailouts on Wall Street, and now, he's going around decrying the excesses of Wall Street and sympathizing with Occupy Wall Street who are denouncing the bailouts?

And his appointment of the bailout specialist, Geithner as his secretary of the Treasury, Bernanke, the man who was the architect of the bailouts that he reappointed as head of the Federal Reserve? He's made mistakes. It's remarkable he would say, given our conditions today, ‘I believe all the choices we have made have been the right ones.’”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”


Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.