Indiana Dem Who Shut Down The Gov’t (And Won) Calls On Obama To Follow His Lead

The leader of the Indiana House Democrats — who fled the Hoosier state along with his caucus and beat back a Republican majority led by Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) in March — told TPM Thursday that reports of entitlement cuts in the national debt talks could cost state legislators like him the chance to capitalize on the fights of 2011 in next year’s elections.And state Rep. Pat Bauer (D) knows what he’s talking about: He’s a member of board at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the national group charged with boosting Democratic numbers in statehouses across the country.

Bauer sat down with TPM in DC on Thursday amidst Democratic hand wringing over reports that President Obama had put Social Security and Medicare on the table in an attempt to cut a budget deal with the Congressional GOP.

Bauer was concerned, saying that cuts to entitlements will muddy campaign messaging on the trail next year, when state-level Democrats like him and his fellow town-skippers in Wisconsin hope to capitalize on voter discontent with their Republican leaders.

“You’re talking about the heart of the Democratic party,” Bauer said, referring to those who rely on government entitlements. “We need clear differences between Republicans and Democrats.”

Bauer said Obama should end the wars in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq along with calling for new taxes on the rich if he wants to close the budget hole. Entitlement programs — especially Social Security — should be off the table entirely. That will help Democrats draw a contrast with Republicans on the campaign trail next year.

“[It would show] we know where we’re at,” Bauer said, and would paint a picture of “greedy Republicans” bent on paying for tax cuts for the rich on the backs of those who rely on government support.

His advice on how to negotiate? Bauer said Obama should push the GOP the same way he and his Democratic House colleagues pushed Daniels and the Republicans who tried to turn Indiana into a right-to-work state after what he called the 2010 “tsunami” election.

“If they want to shut the government down, let ’em,” Bauer said of the Republicans. “The GOP will be the biggest losers in the end.”