Even though their membership is shrinking, in part due to tactics employed by Republican-controlled states that want to weaken them, labor unions still wield a lot of clout within the Democratic Party. So President Obama addressed a major union meeting in Milwaukee yesterday. He pointed out that the economy has added 10 million jobs since he took office. But his visit to Wisconsin was not about abstract statistics. It was about getting union members and blue collar workers in the Midwest in general energized and ready to help the Democrats in key races, such as the hotly contested governorship of Wisconsin. Probably most union members are aware that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) signed a bill that crippled public employee unions in Wisconsin and then survived a recall election caused by this bill. Obama's point was that the union members still have a chance to get rid of Walker in November. Polls show him neck-and-neck with former bicycle company executive Mary Burke.
This is probably the most important gubernatorial contest in the country in November. Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate if he wins, hit the unions very hard. If he wins, other Republican governors will get the message that you can do that and survive. On the other hand, if he loses, it will be a warning signal to other governors and also to a potentially Republican-controlled Senate.
Embattled Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has a surprising ally on her side: the financial sector. It has given her $363,000 since she was seated in the Senate in 2009. This is not entirely surprising since she was Vice President on a bank before entering politics and North Carolina has a large number of financial firms in the Research Triangle Park area. She also sits on the Senate banking committee, which has jurisdiction over banks. On the whole, they can live with her whereas her opponent, Thom Tillis, is an unknown quantity. In general, conservative industries like banking prefer incumbents whose track records are acceptable to newcomers whose behavior they can't predict.
As talk about Romney in 2016 heats up, an opinion piece in the Washington Post written by a Republican explains why this would be a terrible idea. For starters, he lost against a weak President who was presiding over a very slow economic recovery. In 2016 he won't be able to pin the economy on his opponent. But far worse, the problem is that Romney changed his positions on everything from health care to abortion multiple times during his career. Nobody knew what he really stood for and that would be equally true in 2016. Remember the Etch-A-Sketch debacle? People don't like voting for someone they can't trust. Finally, in 2016 Romney would be facing a far stronger primary field including well-known senators (e.g., Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio) and well-known governors (possibly Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and John Kasich). He couldn't survive the primaries by waiting for all the others to fail, one at a time, as happened in 2012.
Another widely discussed potential 2016 candidate is Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). To shore up his foreign-policy credentials, he is visiting Mexico this week. While there are many hot spots in the world today, Mexico is not one of them so it is not clear what this trip buys him. In a potential debate with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is he going to say he visited Mexico in 2014? But in any case, his fate depends largely on whether U.S. attorney Paul Fishman indicts him and whether the report yet to be issued by the New Jersey legislature damns him. Until these issue clear up the rest is irrelevant.
If you don't believe that the 2016 presidential race is already underway, how would you explain the impending visits to Iowa by both Hillary Clinton and potential challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)? Sanders also spoke to a labor group in New Hampshire yesterday.