Mitch Daniels, Rising Star

My friend Matt Tully of the Indianapolis Star notes the trend of national media turning its attention to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as a potential ...
by | May 27, 2009

Daniels My friend Matt Tully of the Indianapolis Star notes the trend of national media turning its attention to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as a potential national star for the GOP. Tully cites The Washington Post and National Review, which put Daniels on its cover this week. I've heard Daniels' name get dropped during cable gabfests, also.

Two reasons: First, he's blunt and always has something interesting to say. That got him in trouble in Indiana a few years back but plays well on the national stage. Second, unlike many other Republicans, he won last year. It makes sense that political watchers would turn to someone who, as the National Review wrote, "has been able to achieve success in the face of prevailing political and economic headwinds."

Daniels himself tells the Post:

First, that Republicans must regain the high ground as the party of new ideas. "We need to be conceiving ideas all the time, not just sit there and hold office," said Daniels.

Second, that reflexive partisanship and name-calling rarely brings about those ideas and solutions. Daniels insisted that during his five years in the governor's mansion he has not said the word "Democratic" more than three times and has never uttered the words "liberal" or "conservative."

Daniels in many ways has the right profile for his party. He's been successful while pushing a conservative agenda. He doesn't strike me as the national candidate type, however. He did well in his first run for governor -- which was his first run for anything -- by appealing as a down-home sort, despite his high-powered resume. Low-key was the right way to go for a guy who is smart but lacking in charisma, but it probably wouldn't translate nationwide.

Also, his accomplishments are real but they're more gubernatorial than presidential. He retooled some state government functions, privatized a toll road and has done some innovative things on health care, but hasn't come up with a signature idea that would make him stand out during the primaries. (Although it's true that Howard Dean rode a little bike path pretty far.)

But, as is usually the case when someone gets talked up as a national figure, all of this is moot. (Some of us still remember National Review touting Bill Owens in 2002 as "America's best governor.") Daniels made his promise not to run for president the focus of the last campaign ad of his gubernatorial race last year. When I interviewed him for a profile about 18 months ago, he told me with real delight how he was promising contributors that this would be the last time he would hit them up for money because he never intended to run for office again.

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