President Obama’s speech and Speaker Thom Tillis’s remark define the chasm between Democrats and Republicans – and the opening for Governor Perdue in 2012.
Obama talked Tuesday about “investments” that will “win the future.”
Tillis said Wednesday: “I believe government needs to be as small as possible to provide for people’s safety, to provide for education and to provide for infrastructure – and not much else.”
When the inevitable question came – what about health care and human services? – Tillis backtracked: That comes under public safety, he explained. But his point remained: Balance the budget with spending cuts alone.
Republicans say “investments” is government-speak for “spending.” Democrats say Republicans cut too much.
Swing voters, essentially, believe both critiques are right. They think Democrats spend too much and Republicans cut too much.
In 2010, they punished Democrats for spending too much. In 2012, they may punish Republicans for cutting too much – especially after Republicans in Raleigh cut $3 billion-plus and Republicans in Washington try to cut $500 billion.
Right now, those huge numbers mean nothing to people. We have no concept of what they mean.
Soon, we’ll know exactly what they mean. And therein lies Perdue’s opportunity.
If she draws a bright line against draconian cuts – especially in education – she can appeal to voters’ natural instinct to provide checks and balances in government.
She can say: “If you want a governor who’ll rubber-stamp a legislature that guts education, vote for somebody else. If you want a governor who’ll stand up to them, vote for me.”
Taking that bold stand will be uncomfortable for a governor who came out of the legislature. But it could be her only road to reelection.