Bill Kristol and the Mitch Daniels “Groundswell”

More Kristol speculation that makes no sense.

Bill Kristol writes (Debate Winner: Mitch Daniels): “I’ve got to think Monday night’s debate further swelled the groundswell of support for Mitch Daniels.”  He goes on from there to gripe a bit about both Romney and Gingrich and concludes: “My conclusion: If Mitch Daniels’s effective tax rate is 30 percent rather than 15 percent, and if he was never paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac, he can be the next president.”

As far as arguments/analysis goes, that is the thinnest of gruel.

Do we need any further evidence that Kristol lives in fantasyland (or that he simply pulls his views out of thin air)?  The only way anyone other than Romney or Gingrich is going to be the nominee is for the convention to reject the eventual winner of the primary process.  This is radically unlikely (to the point of being nothing more than a delusion).

I would point out that just over two weeks ago Kristol was pontificating about Rick Santorum’s chances (as I noted in a post entitled “Santorum is Doomed“).  At the time Kristol wrote “Actually, Santorum can hope to win. He has been running to win. And after what he pulled off in Iowa, it’s foolish to suggest he doesn’t have a chance to win.”

For the record, Santorum won 9.4% in New Hampshire (5th place out of 6, excluding the 1.5% to “other”) and 17% (3rd place out of 4, excluding the 1.8% to “other).

So, Kristol was sure dead on with that prediction.

Regardless, these fantasies (which have been all over the place of late) are ridiculous and here’s why.

1.  The candidate on the sideline always looks better than the ones in the game.  Remember when Rick Perry was not yet in the race and a large percentage of the commentariat had already penciled him in as the nominee?  It is easy to project hopes and dreams on the unknown and untested.  The problem becomes that once they start talking they are almost certainly going to disappoint.  Further, there is the fact that they are unvetted on the national stage.  Have we learned nothing from what exposure to the big stage did to the aforementioned Perry or to Herman Cain?

2.  A brokered convention in which the entire primary process is tossed in the trashcan is not going to happen unless there is some tragedy right before the convention and the presumptive nominee dies (or unless there is a dead girl/live boy revelation).  The various actors invested in the primary process are not going to accept the notion, come this summer, that the months of activities (not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars that will have been spent) were all a farce that meant nothing.

This process is well institutionalized and it will run its course to select a nominee.  There is nothing to suggest otherwise save for rampant speculation from people who need something to talk about.

Back to Mitch Daniels:  does Kristol not remember that Daniels chose not to run and that at least one of his reasons was wanting to avoid the media scrutiny his wife would receive?*  Does Kristol really think that has changed?  Indeed, I would argue that the attention that both Cain and Gingrich has received would add more weigh in favor of Daniels’ original decisions, not less.

Update:  Kristol’s evidence, btw, of a “groundswell” include a couple FNC clips, including one of Kristol himself and the fact that some people have put up websites encouraging a draft Daniels campaign.  Heck, with evidence like that, he must be onto something!


*For those unfamiliar, Daniels and his wife divorced and she moved away from the family and married another man.  Mrs. Daniels later divorced that man and re-married Daniels.  If Daniels is truly concerned about the media making a spectacle of this (and they will) things like the ABC “open marriage” interview can’t be an encouragement.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Why does anyone listen to Bill Kristol? Even his father thought he was a dull knife.

  2. Scott F. says:

    If one needs more evidence that the system is rigged in favor of the rich and connected, please note that Kristol is a 1%er. If financial success correlated more closely with merit, a hack like Kristol, who hasn’t been right about anything for more than a decade, would be writing obituaries for a free weekly paper.

  3. Craig says:

    Do we need any further evidence that Kristol lives in fantasyland (or that he simply pulls his views out of thin air)?


    (Well, you did ask…)

  4. MSS says:

    After 2000, I never assume the US presidential election process is “well institutionalized”.

  5. legion says:

    As far as arguments/analysis goes, that is the thinnest of gruel.

    Well, look who you’re writing about. Really, Steven, this guy simply isn’t worth the brain power you just expended.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    Bill Kristol making a hair-brained prediction based on flimsy evidence?
    Shocking that anyone even listens to this clown.
    Makes me think of Iraq actually.
    If you have never read the letter at this link you should.

  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    This would be like the groundswell for Palin? Kristol is one of the gravediggers of the Republican party responsible for among other things cheerleading the Iraq debacle and the Palin carnival. Why anyone with an IQ above room temperature would pay any attention to this buffoon you may ask?

  8. Anon says:

    Maritally, Daniels seems almost like the anti-Gingrich, though, and in fact I think it makes me respect him more. We don’t (and shouldn’t, in my opinion) know the details of course, but on the face of it, he seems like someone who takes his marital vows very seriously, even through an intervening divorce.

  9. Gustopher says:

    What this clown car needs is more clowns. But, at this stage it has to be someone with star power, who is already a household name, to help overcome the organizational disadvantages of starting so late.

    Sarah Palin.

  10. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Bill Kristol??

  11. James Joyner says:

    Do we need any further evidence that Kristol lives in fantasyland (or that he simply pulls his views out of thin air)?

    I was thinking another source was more likely.

  12. @James Joyner:

    I was thinking another source was more likely

    Indeed. Let’s just say I self-censored.