Principled, Punchy Pols Are Popular Pols

Indiana Gov. Mitch DanielsI’ve written previously in this space about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has garnered enormous popularity while governing courageously.  Today, with a new Quinnipiac poll about Gov. Tom Corbett’s popularity engendering lots of chatter, I want to turn your attention to another relevant governor:  Mitch Daniels of Indiana.

These days, Gov. Daniels is a rock star.  Just yesterday, one of our CF supporters told me how much he wished Gov. Daniels would run for president, and believe me, he wasn’t the first.  Observers nationwide have toasted Gov. Daniels’ effectiveness in turning the Hoosier State around.  What we forget today, though, is that in the middle of his first term, this prophet had no honor in his hometown.  The Indianapolis Star ran a pretty unambiguous headline on November 25, 2007:  “50% disapprove of Daniels’ work.”  The story noted that the year before, Gov. Daniels’ approval rating had been an even lower 37 percent.

You might think, based on that, that Gov. Daniels subsequently turned tail and/or became a private citizen.  You’d be wrong.  He hasn’t let up on taking a scalpel to spending.  Less than a year after that poll came out, he won reelection resoundingly, garnering “more votes than any candidate for any public office in the state’s history.”  And since then he has signed a right-to-work law and a major expansion of school choice.

Too many here in Harrisburg think constant caution or even cowardice creates confidence.  Gov. Daniels’ story says otherwise.  We elect leaders to lead.  Sometimes that entails making difficult decisions, and we expect those to be explained compellingly along the way.  That’s exactly what Gov. Daniels has done in Indiana, and the results are obvious—not just in terms of his own political standing, but by the people of his state being better off.

Here’s hoping that as this enormously consequential year continues, politicians here in Pennsylvania learn the lessons Gov. Daniels can teach us.