David Hoppe

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:: Mitch and Mike

Riding the Hoosier Tiger

by David Hoppe

First Mitch. Then Mike.

Has a ring to it, no?

Indiana’s gubernatorial tag team is like its own echo chamber. First Daniels, now the prez of Purdue University, attends a conference of like-minded movers and shakers, including Dick Cheney, Paul Ryan and (no kidding) Apple CEO Tim Cook, in Sea Island, Georgia. While there, he sits on a panel called “How to Fix the States” with two of his biggest fans, governors Rick Scott of Florida and Rick Snyder of Michigan.

Pence shows up at a conference called The New York Meeting, where he speaks to a kind of rightwing Who’s Who, with the likes of Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots and Katie Pavlich of Fox News’ “Outnumbered.”

Daniels, predictably, draws fire from his critics for taking part in a seemingly political event after promising Purdue to stay out of politics.

Pence, predictably, draws fire from his critics for taking part in a seemingly political event, although he claims his New York adventure was all about economic development.

In both cases, those critics sound distinctly whingey, as if they expect both guvs, the once and current, to pretend they’re not what they are and always will be: political animals.

There is, of course, another echo playing here. It was at this time about four years ago that many on the Republican side were fervently hoping Mitch Daniels might be cajoled into running for president. New York Times columnist David Brooks called Mitch his party’s “spiritual leader.”

A Daniels candidacy was not in the cards. But this hasn’t kept people from speculating similarly about a potential run by Pence. “If Mike got in the race, I’d probably endorse him immediately,” said Republican poobah Dick Armey, going so far as to compare Pence with Ronald Reagan, who, as conservative spiritual leaders go, ranks just to the right of the bald eagle (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gop-woos-pence-for-2016-and-indiana-governor-says-hes-listening/2014/05/08/967d0ece-d60d-11e3-aae8-c2d44bd79778_story.html).

It is tempting in 2014 — as it was in 2010 — to say this Republican infatuation, first with Mitch, now with Mike, reflects nothing so much as their party’s lack of a truly formidable front runner.

But something else is happening. The fact is Republicans think Indiana is a real success story. As far as the GOP is concerned, we’re the Hoosier Tiger, a state they wish all of America could emulate.

This started with Daniels, who slashed government regulations, privatized services whenever he could, cut corporate taxes, eviscerated the unions through “right-to-work” legislation and attained that most revered of all conservative fetishes: a balanced state budget (http://archive.indystar.com/article/20121230/NEWS05/212300352/State-s-status-up-companies-residents-income-down-during-Daniels-tenure).

Indiana incomes fell during Daniels’ tenure. New jobs tended to pay less. But such details do not bother Republicans — it’s what they think needs to happen if we’re going to compete with the Chinese.

Pence not only inherited Daniels’ Indiana, he added wrinkles of his own: another corporate tax cut, as well as stands against the Common Core curriculum and gay marriage. A Medicaid overhaul could be next.

The next echo you hear will come straight from the Republican Party’s boiler room.