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First Thoughts: The Party of No (Compromise)

The Party of No (Compromise)… Walker rejects offer by GOP state senator to suspend collective bargaining rights for two years… Walker to deliver televised fireside chat at 7:00 pm ET (is he seeing poll numbers that are similar to what labor shows?)… Mourdock launches his primary challenge against Lugar, and says a majority of Indiana GOP leaders are supporting him… Obama, as well as much of his cabinet, heads to Cleveland, OH for a small business forum… Obama speaks at 11:35 am ET and 1:55 pm… And it’s Election Day in the race for Chicago mayor.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** The Party of No (Compromise): In his "60 Minutes" interview right before becoming House speaker, John Boehner drew plenty of eyebrows, even from questioner Lesley Stahl, when he wouldn't say the C-word: compromise. Said Stahl: “But governing means compromising.” Boehner: “It means working together.” Stahl: “It also means compromising.” Boehner: “It means finding common ground… When you say the word ‘compromise’…a lot of Americans look up and go, ‘Uh-oh, they're gonna sell me out.’ And so finding common ground, I think, makes more sense.” Later, Stahl asked, “Why won't you say you're afraid of the word?” Boehner: “I reject the word.” And Boehner isn’t the only Republican leader rejecting it. In the standoff in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is refusing to negotiate with Democrats and labor (more on that below). And in Indiana, a Republican senator known for compromising -- Indiana’s Dick Lugar -- could very well lose his GOP primary next year (ditto). The C-word has become a four-letter word to the party bases, more so on the GOP side these days. And there is a difference between "common ground" and "compromising," the two words are NOT interchangeable, especially in the eye of the GOP primary voter these days.

*** I want it all, and I want it now: On MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” yesterday morning, one of us asked Walker if he would support a compromise -- floated by a moderate Republican state senator -- that would temporarily get rid of collective bargaining rights for state workers for two years. Walker’s response: “It'll never get to me. It will never get to me because, other than that one state senator, all the rest of the Republicans are firmly behind our proposal. All the other members of the majority, the members of the majority that we need to pass it in the assembly are behind us because they recognize what I've been saying all along. You cannot have a short-term fix.”

*** Polling in Wisconsin: Walker’s refusal to compromise publicly, to take a deal getting 90% of what he wants, may be one reason why his numbers are upside down, according to one Democratic poll commissioned by labor groups (plenty of caveats, natch). In the new survey (conducted Feb. 19-20 of 402 Wisconsin voters), the governor’s approval rating sits at 41% approve/51% disapprove; 52% say they disapprove of Walker’s agenda; and 57% want Walker to drop his plan to get rid of collective bargaining rights for state workers if these workers agree to his wage cuts. Of course, we’ve yet to see a good poll sponsored by a neutral party here, but Walker may very well be seeing similar numbers in his own polling, given that he's asking local TV stations for airtime for a televised fireside chat with Wisconsin residents at 7:00 pm ET tonight. Walker's won the budget-policy part of this debate (just look at all the union leaders who have come out over the weekend saying they'll accept the health care and pension cuts). But Walker's struggling to explain why he needs to wipe out collective bargaining rights completely. One less, PERHAPS, from the last four years of American politics is that the 20% of voters in the middle (for general elections, not primaries) don't like politicians who don't at least show a willingness to meet in the middle.

*** Challenging Lugar: Meanwhile, in nearby Indiana, the Washington Post reports that state Treasurer Richard Mourdock today will launch his primary challenge against GOP Sen. Dick Lugar -- and he’ll do so “with the support of a majority of both the state's 92 Republican county chairmen and its state party executive committee.” Mourdock also told the Post that GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels and Rep. Mike Pence will remain neutral in the primary, even though Daniels has previously served as Lugar’s campaign manager and has committed voting for him. Lugar’s sins: He helped President Obama pass the New START treaty with Russia; he voted to confirm both of Obama’s SCOTUS picks; and he opposed the Senate earmark ban. While it's not a surprise RIGHT NOW that Lugar's in trouble in his own party, it's really surprising given how much Lugar has meant to the Indiana GOP. Where would the state party be without Lugar? He WAS the Republican Party in Indiana for years. This is Richard Nixon's favorite mayor that is being rejected by a new generation of Republicans.

*** Will Daniels really stay neutral? Here's an interesting sidebar on Indiana: Will Daniels really stay neutral in next year’s Indiana primary, as Mourdock contends? After all, here is what the governor -- and possible presidential candidate -- said at CPAC: “Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers… We have learned in Indiana, big change requires big majorities. We will need people who never tune in to Rush or Glenn or Laura or Sean. Who surf past C-SPAN to get to SportsCenter.”  That sounds like a Mitch Daniels who, if he's privately for Lugar, will be unafraid to support him publicly. Then again, if Daniels does remain neutral, it does tell you he's interested in higher office running from within the GOP.

*** Obama -- and much of his cabinet -- is in Cleveland: Also in the Midwest today, President Obama heads to Cleveland, OH, where his administration holds a forum on small business. Obama will deliver opening remarks at 11:35 am ET and closing remarks at 1:55 pm. Per the White House, this will be the first time the Obama White House has taken so many cabinet members on the road for a domestic trip; indeed, attending today’s event will be Treasury Secretary Geithner, Commerce Secretary Locke, Labor Secretary Solis, Energy Secretary Chu, as well as SBA Administrator Karen Mills. This is the Daley influence, pure and simple. But once again, as the White House turns its messaging to the economy, the big story remains the situation in the Middle East/North Africa -- this time Libya. It’s worth noting that Libya isn’t Egypt; the U.S. doesn’t have real ties to the country and is working through European nations like France, Britain and Italy, who all have closer ties to Libya. But one thing to keep in mind: Libya's crisis could have a bigger economic impact, given that Europe gets much of its oil from Libya.  
*** Election Day in Chicago: Mayor Rahm? We’ll find out as Chicago voters head to the polls today to choose among six mayoral candidates -- Rahm Emanuel, Miguel Del Valle, Carol Mosely Braun, Gery Chico, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, and Williams Walls III. The winner must get 50%-plus to avoid an April 5 run-off, and public-opinion surveys have shown Emanuel at or near that 50% threshold. Polling places open at 7:00 am ET and close at 8:00 pm ET.

*** 2012 watch: Herman Cain today addresses the Kansas Chamber of Commerce in Topeka, KS… Newt Gingrich speaks at the University of Pennsylvania… Mike Huckabee’s new book, “A Simple Government: 12 Things We Really Need from Washington,” his bookstores… And Rick Santorum remains in South Carolina. 

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 259 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 349 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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