Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a very popular presidential choice among the adult section of the Republican Party who realize that the “red menace” of government debt and deficit spending is a serious threat to the republic’s economic and social future (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen even called the debt “the greatest threat to our national security”). But will Daniels run?
As I’ve noted before (and Steven Moore of the Wall Street Journal also made this point last Thursday at a meeting of the Federalist Society in Washington), it is going to be tough to defeat Obama in 2012 given what is happening in the economy (among other things). So maybe Governor Daniels will stay out and move onto the next challenge when his term runs out in January 2013.
However, the Indianapolis Star reported today that Daniels – in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board – “sounds like” he is going to seek the nomination. The Star noted that “His answers made clear what we already knew — that he is giving the question deep thought — and underscored how intently he has worked through the issues that would face him and the messages on which he would base a campaign.” It appears that Daniels will make a decision soon; he told the paper that “he would make a final decision on whether to run for president soon after the state legislature wraps up its 2011 session, presumably later this month.”
I hope he gets into the race – and believe he will do so. Four things in particular make this the right time for Daniels:
1. This is a great chance for a budget guru with a record of fiscal conservatism to capture the nomination. The budget and healthcare are going to be THE issues like never before and an able technocrat like Daniels offers a nice counter to both Romney and Obama given their less-than-shining track records in these areas. Plus his “red menace” message is pitch-perfect for the kind of race the Republicans are going to have to run to win (especially since the Republicans’ similar insanity in the defense and foreign policy realm make that an area in which they will be unwilling to beat up on Obama). Moreover, the cultural conservatives are going to present a much smaller hurdle for Daniels in the primary than they might normally be.
2. Daniels is no spring chicken and so won’t be as likely as other potential nominees to pass up this race for 2016.
3. I’m as convinced as anyone could be so far out that 2016 is going to be Chris Christie’s election to lose if Obama wins reelection. So given this along with Daniels’ age, 2012 is the governor’s only real window of opportunity.
4. Daniels is well-positioned to capture Rust Belt states that are sure to be critical in the battle for Electoral College votes.
Daniels is about as good a candidate (on the merits) for libertarians as we are likely to see this cycle. His call for a “truce” on social issues/the culture war was heartening. And his list of 5 best books suggests a serious and thoughtful advocate of dynamic markets who recognizes the danger of rent-seeking interest groups (though I think Capitalism and Freedom is a far better book than Free to Choose).