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Mitch Daniels' State of the Union Response Shows GOP Priority: Beating Up on Workers

Daniels’ response was the first to be delivered from a building surrounded by dozens of police cars and chanting activists, protesting his latest anti-union move.

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Daniels didn’t mention “Right to Work” in his national speech last night.  Neither did Obama, whose sole mention of a union, other than “the state of” ours, was in celebrating a CEO that returned jobs from abroad to a unionized American plant (Daniels opened his speech by praising Obama’s support for “long overdue changes in public education,” after Obama called in his speech for making it easier for schools to fire teachers).  But whatever Daniels aspires to be next – talking head, party chair, president – he’s on the verge of cementing his right-wing rock star status maintaining his credentials as a Republican that mainstream pundits love to respect. In the moments after Daniels’ speech, as protesters in Indiana were chanting “We are Indiana!  Hear our voices!” Chris Matthews was pining on MSNBC for someone like Daniels to run for president.   The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein began a tweet tweaking Daniels’ budget record with, “I like Daniels.” 

Newt Gingrich’s South Carolina primary victory over Mitt Romney only intensified the public yearning of certain conseratives to draft Mitch Daniels back into presidential contention.  Far-fetched as that hope may be, it’s enough to secure Daniels increased national media attention in the months to come.  So expect to hear more center-left pundits praising Daniels for telling “hard truths” about the need to cut popular entitlements and having a less scary demeanor than Newt Gingrich.  Meanwhile, if Daniels presides over making Indiana the first new “Right to Work” state in a decade, he’ll be able to claim a contribution to the conserative movement that most Republican officials can only dream of.  And Indiana labor will face an even greater struggle ahead.


Josh Eidelson is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He worked as a union organizer for five years. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.