Republicans Waiting For Mitch Daniels

With the 2012 GOP field looking very underwhelming, GOP insiders are looking toward Indianapolis for a savior.

With no clear front runner in the GOP race, and many Republicans reporting that they are “depressed” about the current crop of candidates, attention is shifting to the Hoosier State and one Mitch Daniels:

Top Republicans are increasingly convinced that President Barack Obama will be easily reelected if stronger GOP contenders do not emerge, and some are virtually begging Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to add some excitement to the slow-starting nomination race. It’s a sign of the GOP’s straits that the party is depending on the bland, wonkish Daniels for an adrenaline boost. But interviews this week with longtime party activists and strategists made clear that many in the Republican establishment are unnerved by a field led by Mitt Romney, who could have trouble confronting Obama on health reform; Tim Pawlenty, who has yet to ignite excitement; Jon Huntsman, who may be too moderate to get the nomination; and Newt Gingrich, weighed down by personal baggage and a sense that he is a polarizing figure from the 1990s. Despairing Republican lobbyists say their colleagues don’t ask, “Who do you like?” but instead, “Who do we back?” “It’s not that they’re up in arms,” said a central player in the GOP money machine. “It’s just that they’re depressed.” And a huge swath of operatives, donors and strategists remain uncommitted, in the hope that the field is not yet set.

(…)

With Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision not to run, the party’s elites are holding out a desperate hope to persuade Daniels, who is publicly reluctant, in part because of his wife’s concerns. A highly unusual phone call from former first lady Laura Bush to Daniels’s wife, Cheri, was a sign that GOP insiders believe the governor is still on the bubble and that the party should pull out every stop to persuade him to jump in. Charlie Black, a longtime consultant to GOP presidential races, has been talking up Daniels around Washington and said he sees a 50-50 chance the reluctant Hoosier will run. “Now is the time, and he knows that,” Black said. “We have members of both the Bush and McCain teams who have been waiting to see who all’s going to get in. The makings of a campaign are there if he decides to run.” Daniels has gone radio silent to many of his backers but said Tuesday he’s “not going to take much longer” to make a decision on whether he’ll run. But the Indiana governor said he doesn’t have a timetable for announcing that decision once it’s made. Two of the nation’s best-known Republicans, in background interviews, predicted this week that Daniels would run, although wishful thinking seems to be at least part of the animating force behind the latest wave of pro-Daniels buzz.

For his own part, Daniels told an Indianapolis political reporter that he wouldn’t take much longer to announce his decision:

Gov. Mitch Daniels in an interview Tuesday, made clear that he is very near a decision on whether to run for president. “I’m not going to take much longer,” Daniels told me. Daniels said his family has now had “a lot of time to marinate” the issue and was ready to enter the final stage of the decision-making process. In recent days, pundits and politicos have accused the governor of being coy and stretching the decision out too far. He insisted he has stuck to his initial promise: to finish the state legislative session, which ended late last month, and then take a short period of time to dig into the issue of a White House run. “I wish people would figure out we’re not BS’ing them,” Daniels said, declining to say whether he was leaning toward or against a run.

If he does run, it seems like Daniels would like to copy his practices from 2004:

» Thinking about the 2004 campaign, which attracted national attention for its creativity and on-the-road sensibility, Daniels said: “Some of it would work and some of it wouldn’t” in a national campaign. “Campaigning in a retail way, they tell me, is useful in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said. “And we certainly know how to do that.” But he said his low-key 2004 approach, full of midday trips to county fairs and unannounced stops, wouldn’t work under the glare of the national spotlight. “I know at som» Daniels said he would continue to sleep in voters’ homes if he does run for president, as he has as governor and during his two statewide campaigns. “It not only saves money, but you learn so darn much,” he said. » He said his goal would be to “take the venom” out of national politics and to “show respect for our opponent.”e point the retail approach might not be practical,” he said, pointing to the need to hold huge rallies in the heat of a campaign

It would be an interesting campaign, though I’m not sure how practical it would be to copy the electoral practices of Indiana on a nationwide scale. The Daniels anticipation, though, is indicative of a lot more than what people think of Mitch Daniels, it’s also a reflection of the fact that many people, including many influential Republicans in Washington and elsewhere, are concerned that there isn’t anybody in the GOP field that can accomplish the task of (1) winning the nomination and (2) beating Barack Obama. With Huckabee out of the race, Gingrich imploding, Pawlenty underwhelming, and Romney on the defensive over RomneyCare, it’s easy to see why they’d be concerned. Notwithstanding the enthusiasm their supporters like that the Ron Paul’s, Gary Johnson’s and Herman Cain’s of the field are not going to win, and if they did they’d face an uphill battle in November.

It’s easy, then, to see why people are still looking to outsiders to come into the race and save the day. Despite saying numerous times that he has no desire to run, Chris Christie is still being courted as a candidate in 2012, as is Paul Ryan, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, and for reasons that I cannot fully understand former Governor and Ambassador Jon Huntsman is about enter the race.

Daniels, though, seems uniquely situated to go far in the race, and to appeal to fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and independents in a way that others, with the possibly exception of Mitt Romney, cannot. While he is most well known nationally for his suggestion of a truce on social issues, there really isn’t anyone who can question Daniels’ bona fides as a social conservative. His record of success in Indiana speaks for itself. Most importantly, he seems to be one of the few candidates out there willing to speak honestly about America’s fiscal problems:

Interestingly, Daniels is the one viable candidate that seems to attract the most attention from the libertarian wing of the GOP. If he were the nominee, I could see libertarian Republicans who normally can’t stomach voting for the party’s nominee rallying around him. And that speech is one reason why.

Nobody really seems to know what Daniels is going to do. Any pundit who says they do is lying to you. What I do know is that, if he doesn’t run, the GOP field is going to considerably weaker and far less interesting.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    Daniels is known as “The Bantam Menace” at Sadly, No!

  2. Michael says:

    Don’t sweat it OTB…he’ coming…and your not going to like it one bit.

  3. Moosebreath says:

    “Most importantly, he seems to be one of the few candidates out there willing to speak honestly about America’s fiscal problems”

    Unfortunately, when actually in a position to do something about America’s fiscal problems (as Bush the Younger’s head of OMB), he opted to make the problems worse, by cooking the books to garner support for an unpaid-for mandate, pushing for 10 year tax cuts under the guise of counter-cyclical stimulus (quite a cycle there!), etc. Totally typical for a Republican.

  4. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Yawn, oh, soory.Almost feel asleep watching the clip.

  5. Terrye says:

    I live in Indiana. When Mitch Daniels became Governor the state was looking at a deficit.. Daniels has balanced the budget and created a surplus. He also ended collective bargaining for state employees and pushed a change in medical coverage that lead to savings through health savings accounts.

    He has been very supportive of both vouchers and charter schools in spite of the opposition of the teachers union.

    He has cut funding for Planned Parenthood until or unless they stop doing abortions.

    He has privatizes some roads and saved the state money on infrastucture.

    He has cut taxes and has made Indiana far more business friendly.

    He has never supported any kind of carbon taxes..largely because coal is a big deal in this state. We need those jobs.

    Daniels has an approval rating of about 75%, last I heard. And he has managed to draw support from both Independents and Republicans.

    He is not a charismatic guy, but he has done what he said he would do and he has shown himself to be competent and honest. Right now we could use qualities like that in a president.

  6. Terrye says:

    Mooresbreath:

    Please, it will take years of deficit cutting just to get us back to where we were in 2003. We could do a lot worse…and as for the unpaid for mandate…80% of the people wanted a program like that at the time and the plan Bush supported cost a lot less than the one that the Democrats wanted…Health savings Accounts and Medicare Advantage were also part of the deal. It came in under budget and it is actually a lot like the kind of plan Paul Ryan is talking about for the rest of medicare. It is not a giveaway, it is a discount program that seniors pay into.

    Republicans can not complain about the Democrats and their death panels if they are going to complain about helping some old lady buy her high blood pressure medicine..especially when most of them do not support opening the markets to cheaper drug imports. Big Pharma repaid them by supporting Obamacare.

  7. TG Chicago says:

    for reasons that I cannot fully understand former Governor and Ambassador Jon Huntsman is about enter the race.

    Pretty simple, isn’t it? He’s laying the groundwork and getting name recognition for a run in 2016.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Yea terry, we all know how incompetent Obama is. They talk about it every night on Fox News, right?

    Oh, and say hi to bin laden for me when you see him, ok?

  9. Ben Wolf says:

    Mitch has been amazing. His creative use of billions in federal stimulus funding has alllowed him to demonstrate his commitment to fiscal discipline.

    His transfer of toll roads to foreign corporations proves his understanding of how the private sector is always more efficient, even though tolls have increased 80%.

    His defunding of Planned Parenthood shows his determination to stick his nose into every woman’s vagina and tell her what can go in and what must come out.

    Wow. What a great dude.

  10. anjin-san says:

    the private sector is always more efficient, even though tolls have increased 80%

    Well they ARE more efficient. See what a great job they are doing separating the poor saps driving to work from their money…

  11. An Interested Party says:

    I’m sure the ads that other Republicans will run against him in the primaries, should be decide to run, will showcase his time at OMB rather than his time as governor…after that, I wonder how many people will still think of him as being fiscally responsible…

  12. Have a nice G.A. says:

    His defunding of Planned Parenthood shows his determination to stick his nose into every woman’s vagina and tell her what can go in and what must come out.

    It sounds to me like your gonna do what you want to regardless…

  13. Franklin says:

    He has cut funding for Planned Parenthood until or unless they stop doing abortions.

    I thought Daniels was the guy that wanted to call truce on the social issues? I’m just askin’ here, abortion isn’t my main issue one way or the other.

  14. jukeboxgrad says:

    his time at OMB

    Yup, like this:

    The administration’s top budget official [i.e., Daniels] estimated today that the cost of a war with Iraq could be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion … he said that … earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs… were too high. … Mr. Daniels declined to explain how budget officials had reached the $50 billion to $60 billion range for war costs, or why it was less in current dollars than the 43-day gulf war in 1991.

    Nobel winner Stiglitz recently said this: “The true cost of the Iraq war: $3 trillion and beyond.” $3 trillion would be 50 times greater than Daniels’ estimate. Even by government standards, that’s a colossal error. As the reporter said eight years ago, I would like to hear Daniels “explain how budget officials had reached the $50 billion to $60 billion range for war costs.” Unfortunately it appears that he was trying to avoid the fate of Lawrence B. Lindsey:

    The budget director’s projections today served as a more politically palatable corrective to figures put forth by Mr. Lindsey in September, when he said that a war with Iraq might amount to 1 percent to 2 percent of the national gross domestic product, or $100 billion to $200 billion. Mr. Lindsey added that as a one-time cost for one year, the expenditure would be “nothing.”

    Mr. Lindsey was criticized inside and outside the administration for putting forth such a large number, which helped pave the way for his ouster earlier this month. …

    But today, Mr. Daniels sought to play down his former colleague’s remarks. “That wasn’t a budget estimate,” he said. “It was more of a historical benchmark than any analysis of what a conflict today might entail.”

    So did Daniels actually do “any analysis of what a conflict today might entail?” Or was he just trying to come up with a number that was “politically palatable?” Eventually he’ll be asked this question.

  15. lunaticllama says:

    Chris Christie is a bailout artist. Why any conservative would support someone who as a matter of practice bails out ugly swamp malls and casinos is beyond me. He believes in state socialism for his donors, i.e. state-directed funding for favored industries that pay him off. Oh, and he can’t fill out simple paperwork. His bailout buddies haven’t figured that one out!

  16. Eric Florack says:

    Well they ARE more efficient. See what a great job they are doing separating the poor saps driving to work from their money…

    So now suuddenly, you’re sympathetic to people driving cars? I thought the far left’s objective was to herd them onto trains and buses. You can’t even stick with your own narrative.

  17. Eric Florack says:

    I’m not convinced Daniels is the best we can do. You see, when I mentioned yesterday here at OTB that the GOP field was weak, I include Daniels in that list. He has some questions to answer, to my mind as regard some judicial appointments…. such as the moron who wrote that ruling the other day as regards defending one’s home from invasion.

  18. anjin-san says:

    You can’t even stick with your own narrative.

    Sure bit sure. Just show where I ever said anything remotely like that.

    I thought

    FTFY

  19. Terrye says:

    anjin:

    Actually, I do think Obama is incompetent. Thankfully, he has people like Gates on board who can do some of the heavy lifting for him. I think it is kind of pathetic the way all the former pacifists are pounding their chests after the Navy Seals got Bin Laden. It is interesting that Obama and his fan club think it is all about him.

  20. Terrye says:

    jukebox:

    If you are going to look at Daniels record, look at it all..don’t cherry pick something just to make him look bad. He has done a good job as Governor. In fact he gets a lot higher marks for his job as Governor than the American people are prepared to give Obama for his job as president.

  21. anjin-san says:

    I think it is kind of pathetic the way all the former pacifists are pounding their chests

    Perhaps you could show even a single example of a self-described pacifist “pounding their chest” over bin landen’s death. Even one will do.

    It is interesting that Obama and his fan club think it is all about him.

    And it’s predictable that weak tea like this is all you have to serve up.

  22. Terrye says:

    anjin:

    I think you were doing some pounding yourself, now weren’t you? Oh come, on the strutting was there for all to see..don’t blame me if you are blind.

    And what weak tea is that? Bush gives a speech and thanks the Seals, Obama gives a speech and it is I..I..I..me…me…me.

    Never mind the fact that the United States began looking for Osama Bin Laden long ago..never mind the fact that any president {other than some loon like Ron Paul} would have given the order to take him out..once it happens, it is all about Obama and how wonderful he is. The strutting, the braying, the preening.

    In fact this thread was supposed to be about Daniels and somehow you manage to throw something about the Bin Laden killing into the fray just to strut and brag. Pathetic.

  23. Terrye says:

    And if getting Bin Laden is a sign of who is and is not competent..where does that leave Bill Clinton? The man the Democrats keep telling us was so competent blew a half dozen chances to get Bin Laden.

  24. anjin-san says:

    terrye – I believe you mentioned pacifists. Please stop flailing and produce one. And while you are at it, get a clue about the difference between a needle and a “strut”. You opened the door by attacking Obama, now you are whining because we are talking about Obama? Please.

    once it happens, it is all about Obama and how wonderful he is. The strutting, the braying, the preening.

  25. anjin-san says:

    once it happens, it is all about Obama and how wonderful he is. The strutting, the braying, the preening.

    Here is a clue for you – just because they say things like this in Fox, it does not mean it is true.

    Never mind the fact that the United States began looking for Osama Bin Laden long ago..

  26. anjin-san says:

    Never mind the fact that the United States began looking for Osama Bin Laden long ago..

    Well, you are ignoring the fact that Bush stated in public that bin laden was not a priority, and he was not very concerned about him. Mind you, this is a man who planned and carried out the murders of 3000 Americans in the heart of New York City. And the President did not think he was a priority. Bush then moved on to the hunt for phantom WMD in Iraq “we know they have them and we know where they are”.

    Obama, on the other hand, campaigned on getting bin laden as a top priority – and it got done. This is not a “strut” it is a simple statement of fact, painful as it is to the right.

    I can see why you are feeling a bit desperate as GOP candidates self-destruct at an alarming rate. And just six short months after Bohner’s power strut through the halls of Congress. The GOP may well go down to a defeat in 2012 that makes Mondale’s anemic showing in ’84 look like sudden-death overtime.

    At any rate, I have things to do, and you probably have a date with Hannity. Get back to me when you find even a single self-declared pacifist “strutting and preening”. I won’t hold my breath.

  27. wr says:

    Terrye: “never mind the fact that any president {other than some loon like Ron Paul} would have given the order to take him out..”

    Except of course for Bush, who dismantled the unit hunting Bin Laden.

    Terrye: “And if getting Bin Laden is a sign of who is and is not competent..where does that leave Bill Clinton? The man the Democrats keep telling us was so competent blew a half dozen chances to get Bin Laden.”

    Fascinating that Terrye has completely forgotten that there was a president who came between Clinton and Obama. Or that Clinton left office long before 9/11/2001.

  28. Wiley Stoner says:

    Opinions from all the lefties here aside. None of the GOP I know give a sh*t about Mitch Daniels. Must of us like Jack Daniels.

  29. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Opinions from all the lefties here aside. None of the GOP I know give a sh*t about Mitch Daniels. Must of us like Jack Daniels.

    lol…used to:) How about Jeff Daniels? he has done a lot for Michigan…..

  30. jukeboxgrad says:

    Terrye:

    never mind the fact that any president {other than some loon like Ron Paul} would have given the order to take him out

    Are you sure? I think you have a short memory. A few years ago Obama said he intended to do the thing he just did. Do you remember how conservatives reacted? They used words like “insanity” and “naive.” They accused him of “looking like an idiot while provoking an ally.” McCain himself suggested that it would be wrong to do such a thing without Pakistan’s “permission” (link, link, link).

    So your fanciful claim (“any president … would have given the order to take him out”) requires you to ignore what McCain et al actually said.

  31. anjin-san says:

    juke… quite correct. McCain seemed to be terrified of making Pakistan angry. The contrast between the supposed GOP though guy and Obama, who the right has spent years trying to paint as a later day Neville Chamberlain is quite dramatic. McCain comes across as a frightened, uncertain old man, and Obama is very intense, almost fierce.

    I suppose, given recent events, the right has to grasp whatever straw is at hand.

    This is just a variation of the “This was inevatible, nothing could have stopped it from happening” line the right used to absolve GW of any responsibility for 9.11 taking place on his watch. Now they are employing essentially the same tactic to try and deny Obama any credit for bin laden’s death.

  32. jukeboxgrad says:

    Yes. Also notice how historical amnesia kicks in, but only when it’s convenient. When Obama catches OBL in 2011, we are told that it’s inevitable because Bush laid the groundwork for that in 2003. On the other hand, a rotten economy and high debt in 2011 must have been created overnight by Obama, and have nothing to do with GOP fiscal irresponsibility going back to Reagan (about 3/4 of our debt was created under these three presidents: Reagan, Bush and Bush; Reagan tripled it, and GWB doubled it).

    Nice trick if they can pull it off, but there are too many non-amnesiacs.

  33. Eric Florack says:

    Sure bit sure. Just show where I ever said anything remotely like that.

    Fine. Tell me, do you support more expensive gasoline as Obama does?

  34. jukeboxgrad says:

    I love it when folks answer a question by asking a question.