OP-ED | Malloy May Reap Political Dividend From Jindal Spat
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been making a splash on the national stage this past week, fueling speculation that he has his eye on something beyond Connecticut. At the very least, he’s putting himself in good position for help from national Democrats for his re-election campaign this fall.
Malloy was down in Washington over the past week attending the annual meeting of the National Governor’s Association. The NGA is supposed to be the sort of organization where everyone leaves partisanship at the door, but likely presidential candidate Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal opted to use a press conference at the event to make a rather bumbling attack on President Obama’s proposed minimum wage hike. “The Obama economy,” said Jindal, “is now the minimum wage economy.” He’d earlier accused Obama of “waving the white flag,” though what he meant by that is a mystery.
A visibly irritated Malloy wasn’t having it, and muscled up to the microphone to first call out Jindal on the breach of bipartisan protocol before rebutting his argument. “What the heck was that reference to ‘white flag’ when it comes to people making $404 a week?” Malloy said, while governors behind him grinned. “That’s the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”
Jindal’s argument was pretty ridiculous; the idea that raising the minimum wage is the same thing as becoming a “minimum wage economy,” whatever that is, doesn’t really make sense.
Malloy’s strident defense of the minimum wage, though, won praise online and gave him a moment in the national spotlight. Malloy went on his favorite choice of national morning show, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” to pound the point home the next day. Articles appeared in national publications, and cable news played the footage.
So who was right, Malloy or Jindal? It doesn’t matter — they both got on TV.
Giving a very public rebuttal to a potential GOP candidate for president in 2016, while backing what has become the president’s signature legislative issue, is great news fodder as well as smart politics. It doesn’t matter if Malloy meant it that way, or that his support for minimum wage hikes has been less than enthusiastic in the past. And, of course, it adds fuel to the rumors circulating in the less reliable corners of the Internet that Malloy is looking for some kind of job in Washington to save him from bad poll numbers and, presumably, Tom Foley.
There’s no actual proof anywhere that he’s doing this. In fact, much the opposite: Malloy neatly pierced the possibility of a presidential run himself when asked last week, saying “I am not going to be a candidate for president.” There’s plenty of other offices open, of course, so the rumor mill will grind on, but mostly this is fantasy. Malloy is instead looking like he’s gearing up for a tough re-election campaign.
That’s where his moment in the spotlight could pay off. After the spat, President Obama announced that he’s headed to Connecticut this coming week to talk about the minimum wage. National money may flow into a tight race in Connecticut, and if Malloy is lucky Obama will return to try and rally the troops before Election Day. In 2010 Obama visited Bridgeport only days before the election; Malloy won in part thanks to very high turnout in the Park City.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t expect to see Malloy on the national stage more often. In fact, if he can win re-election in what is likely to be another punishing midterm cycle, Democrats across the country may be looking more closely at him. The great thing about statements like “I am not going to be a candidate for president” is that they can be taken back, and nobody really minds. He may have some work to do, though; both TIME and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews referred to him as “Daniel” Malloy.
What about the minimum wage itself? There’s so much conflicting information out there that it’s very, very hard to separate truth from propaganda. The truth itself is depressingly murky: the minimum wage, according to various meta-studies, probably doesn’t have a huge negative impact on jobs — unless it’s set at the federal level. Then it has some effect. How much of an effect? No one has any real idea.
The only thing the federal minimum wage increase is absolutely certain to do is allow people in desperate poverty a chance to earn slightly more money. That is, if they can find a job.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.