President Obama, in his budget, deferred the tough decisions on entitlements to Republicans. And the GOP is betting that the electorate will reward them for making the painful calls.
-- This week, the GOP showed its hand. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) gave a well-received speech about the urgency to make tough choices for the country's future. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has sparked protests from public workers over his plan to cut spending while undermining union influence. And House Republicans, after some hesitation, announced they're addressing the entitlements that are the key to solving the debt. Taking them on has rarely led to political success.
-- Many Democrats believe Obama set a political trap by allowing Republicans to take the lead on cuts. And Obama has taken sides on the Wisconsin protests in favor of labor: the DNC has organized volunteers to protest the cuts. Those would be good bets, if the politics of 2012 went by the same rules as the past.
-- But we're seeing signs of change. Approval of labor unions is at a near all-time-low. Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) have seen their popularity soar even as they've taken on entrenched interests. Even Obama has tweaked the teachers' unions, the Democrats' biggest backers.
-- Fiscal reform is still a big gamble for the GOP, but it looks like they're putting all their chips in one basket. Most interesting: Jeb Bush offered support to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), the one presidential candidate who's been sounding that siren and has a record as governor to back it up.
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