Tiny Sandford was a very big guy (6’5”, around 300 pounds) who played small parts in 1920s and '30s comedies—Laurel and Hardy’s in particular. Perhaps his best known role is that of the cop in the Laurel and Hardy classic Big Business, a brilliant comedy supervised by Leo McCarey, who was later to direct the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup and other notable films.
The chart of the day, which comes via the Center for Public Integrity, is both vivid and, I'll argue, mostly beside the point. But before we get to my objections, the first thing to notice is what's obvious: Scott Walker and his allies spent way, way, way more money than the other side did in Wisconsin. While it's true that the more high-profile an election is the less a spending advantage matters, and while it's also true that as long as the other side has enough funds to compete, a spending advantage matters less, we're talking about a 7-to-1 difference here, which is pretty striking. Now, to the chart:
There's been quite a bit of bad news for the recall activists hoping to oust Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. A close primary at the beginning of the month divided party supporters and muddied the unified front activists formed when they collected over a million signatures to prompt the recall. Then there was the money—Walker spent much of 2012 testing his stump speech with out-of-state voters.
After he pushed laws to limit collective bargaining for public employees, sparking mass protests last year, it's hardly surprising to discover that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told one of his biggest contributors that he favored right-to-work laws and would take a "divide and conquer" approach to union power. But when a video clip surfaced late last week, showing the governor saying just that, it offered his opponents a major opportunity.
It's only a week until Wisconsin Democrats decide who will be the challenger in the gubernatorial recall that's grabbed the national spotlight. But while the polling shows a tight race between Governor Scott Walker and the two leading Democratic candidates, the numbers are out and the war for dollars is already won. Walker's a national favorite for conservative donors.
With the Wisconsin recall election now official, state Democrats are in a sticky place. Pro-recall forces were able to look united through much of the process, and the million petitions they turned in sent a powerful signal that folks were united against the governor. But there are currently four Democratic candidates hoping they'll be the one to displace Walker. Furthermore, there are no clear winners; two Democrats are in a virtual tie, both in their primary and against Governor Scott Walker.
As Paul Waldman noted earlier this morning, Mitt Romney will be in a tight spot once he's finally clinched the nomination and has to pick a vice-presidential candidate for his ticket, a decision that gets trickier by the day thanks to the elongated primary season. On one side he'll be pressured to appease all of Rick Santorum's supporters, either by granting the second slot on the ticket to the runner-up or another social conservative of his ilk. On the other hand, Romney will have just finished a nomination that has pushed him further and further to the right, so he'll need someone who won't alienate the broader general-election voter base.
*Update: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell retracted his support of transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions Wednesday afternoon. In a statement released to the press, McDonell said:
Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.
Christine O'Donnell may not be a witch, but it appears she's also not much of a political figure. Just when we'd almost forgotten about the woman who seemed to spend her youth making unfortunate statements to Bill Maher, the Wilmington News Journal offered a damning look at the former candidate who garnered national attention in 2010 when her upstart Tea Party campaign defeated Congressman Mike Castle, the Republican establishment pick, in the GOP primary for Delaware's U.S. Senate seat.
In my NYT column on how to think about conflicting polls, I wrote:
A vast majority of Americans — including half of all self-identified Republicans — think there is “too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations.” And a solid majority believes that “the country’s economic system unfairly favors the wealthy.” On the other hand, close to 60 percent of Americans do not see the country as “divided into haves and have-nots” and over 60 percent see “big government” as the biggest threat to the country in the future. What gives?
I think it’s fair to say that there’s enough here to support different political themes. A supporter of higher taxes for higher incomes can focus on the “too much power in the hands of the rich” angle, whereas a supporter of cuts in low-income and middle-income entitlement programs can focus on the lack of resonance of the haves and have-nots argument.
The ambiguity revealed in these polls actually makes sense: if there were a clear and unambiguous majority in favor of some policy and all its ramifications, we would expect it would have already passed and there would be no remaining political dispute. Democrats and Republicans are no longer arguing about laws against racial discrimination or child labor (with rare exceptions). The very fact that an issue is politically live suggests some flexibility on opinions and helps us understand what otherwise seems contradictory about these poll results. . . .
As the political scientists Lawrence Jacobs and Robert Shapiro have demonstrated, politicians don’t just see public opinion as a constraint; they also use it as a tool to achieve their policy goals. Conflicting majority attitudes — for example, a belief that the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, juxtaposed with a relative lack of concern for income inequality — represent an opportunity for smart politicians to reshape public opinion their way.
Now that Ron Paul is leading some Iowa polls, the knives are out—as they have been for every non-Romney contender this year. Michele Bachmann is warning of the apocalyptic consequences of Paul’s isolationist tendencies, while Rick Perry wants everyone to know that his fellow Texan is a big ol’ earmarker. Iowans are fretting that a Paul victory will spell doom for the caucuses.