Wednesday, June 23, 2010
All Aboard the Mitch Daniels Express
Indiana governor Mitch Daniels (who is that? some of you wonder) has now received attention from some prominent conservative publications. Does he have a realistic chance in 2012?
I think he does. If the economy does not improve substantially, Obama will be in real trouble no matter who the Republican is. Since deficits might be an important issue in 2012, Daniels can point to a robust record of balancing Indiana budgets and putting them in surplus before the economic crisis hit. He can also point to a good jobs picture in his state as well.
That begs the question though, of whether he has a chance to win the Republican nomination. He could be competing against better known names like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney. Even here, Daniels has a shot for a few reasons.
First, some of these people might not run in the first place, meaning that there will be some opening. Second, Daniels has time to build name recognition and an organization in two years. He can set up shop in Iowa and spend a good year campaigning there. With a solid showing there (remember he needs only to beat expectations) he can build some momentum for subsequent contests. Third, he has a major case to make that he is more electable than his rivals. He’s not distrusted by evangelicals like Romney is. He won’t put off moderate suburban voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio with his religiosity and social conservatism like Palin and Huckabee could. These voters might find his record as an executive and call for a truce on social issues appealing.
One thing that might hurt Daniels is his ties to the Bush administration where he served as Director of Management and Budget. This might make some tea partiers suspicious of him for serving in what many of them regard as a spendthrift administration. Independents and moderates long ago repudiated Bush and might not want to elect one of his lieutenants. But Daniels left several years ago, before the war in Iraq, hurricane Katrina, or the economic crisis which caused voters to sour on Bush. Moreover, I think by 2012, the election will be a verdict on Obama, not on Bush.
I think Daniels has a solid chance assuming favorable conditions in 2012.