Is Mitch Daniels going to run for president? It may be a while before we know for sure, but there are a few reasons to believe he’s moving closer to a decision in the affirmative.
There’s no doubt Indiana’s budget-cutting governor would be in a good position among Republican elites, among whom his fortunes have risen the most in recent months according to a recent poll. National Journal quotes one anonymous GOP political operative: "Increasingly seen as the anti-Obama -- no flash and slogans, but real leadership and a plan.” Approval from party elites does not a primary winner make, but if the movers and shakers in the GOP throw him enough support, it could encourage Daniels to run.
Signaling that he may indeed have national ambitions, Daniels is heading to D.C. this weekend, his third trip the nation’s capital in a month. Saturday night he’ll be speaking at the annual Gridiron Dinner as the Republican guest, joining his would-be opponent in 2012, Barack Obama. The next day, he’ll be appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Daniels’s first Sunday morning talk show appearance outside of Fox News Sunday.
Now if Daniels were to run, how would he fare among conservative primary voters? In a partial answer to that question, Jen Rubin provides a video preview of Peter Robinson’s Hoover Institution interview with Daniels, which will be released in full next week. Robinson asked Daniels about the now-infamous “truce” comment, reported in Andy Ferguson’s profile of the governor in THE WEEKLY STANDARD last year. Rubin is less than encouraged by his response:
Daniels's remarks are troubling for two reasons. First, he has made our fiscal crisis out to be so monumental that nothing else registers as a top priority. Much as Obama insists that international consensus trumps all other foreign policy concerns (e.g. human rights, warm relations with Israel) Daniels insists that our fiscal issues are such a "mortal threat" that, as Obama would do with Israel, everything else gets thrown overboard. It is a strategy that will inevitably give liberals the trump card on a range of important issues, ranging from Supreme Court nominees to abortion funding to missile defense spending.
Second, it is a goofy conception of alliance-building. Daniels says he can't afford to lose one vote on fiscal issues. But why can't he, as all presidents do, forge varied alliances on different issues? Lawmakers understand this and often ally themselves with the White House on one issue but not on others. Many House Blue Dogs, for example, balked on cap-and-trade but gave the president support on Obamacare. This suggests Daniels simply doesn't understand how Congress and the White House operate.
Given his obstinancy on the social issue truce point, perhaps Daniels isn’t running. If he is, he’ll have to square these sorts of answers with primary voters who still believe issues like abortion and the culture are worth fighting about, particularly if it’s perceived the left is pushing full speed ahead on social issues.