Monday, March 1, 2010

Mr. Show--Meet Mr. Go

Back in June of last year, I wrote an article about a potential future Republican presidential candidate who nobody (including myself) outside the Midwest had heard much about. But at that time, some savvy political insiders had written pieces about his future potential, so it tweaked my interest enough to do some research. That resulted in Who's In Charge Here?. The subject of the article was Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

No doubt you're wondering why I didn't show a more traditional official photo of the governor. Stick with me, there's method to my madness. The picture was taken in the rotunda of the Indiana state capitol where Daniels displayed a New Orleans Saints flag for a week after losing a bet with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal over the Super Bowl. Both Republican governors have been among the early mentions for the presidency in 2012, but neither has yet captured the attention of the general public. I have a certain fondness for potential candidates who are mentioned early but don't have much of a following nationwide because they are too busy doing their jobs in their home states. Jindal and Daniels have both been doing exactly that.

Before continuing, I should mention that after complying with the terms of the bet, Daniels could have simply tossed the enemy banner into the trash. Being a waste-not, want-not type, Daniels instead is auctioning the enemy flag off on e-bay, with a starting bid of $100, proceeds to go to charity.

In recent weeks, Daniels seems to have picked up some speed. He has received honorable mention in The Washington Times, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, US News and World Report, The Washington Post, The New Republic and National Review. None of those have been about some sort of landslide looming in Daniels's future, or puff pieces about the hot new kid on the block. All have been workmanlike studies of a workmanlike governor in a state that desperately needed to get its house in order. Though Daniels has strongly denied that he has presidential aspirations since winning a substantial victory in Indiana at the same time Obama was sweeping the nation, his name has been kicked around by insiders ever since that day.

Daniels is not a big time showman like Obama. His reticence to make grandiloquent speeches and join in rallies may have cost him some support when he called the recent CPAC get-together "a bunch of rowdies," but it's probably not a serious bump in the road for him. After all, the same convention conducted a straw poll which showed Ron Paul as the most desired Republican candidate for 2010. How much is that going to mean three years from now? Not much, I suspect.

Daniels first took office in 2005. At that time Indiana had been governed by Democrats in the executive mansion for sixteen years. The state was in an $800 million dollar deficit. When he ran for re-election in the year of The One, the state had a $1.3 billion surplus. And he didn't accomplish that by raising taxes, since he is a student of the Laffer Curve. One way he did it was to cut waste and get money back into the state economy by targeting the top-heavy and inefficient State Board of Education while at the same time repaying $760 million directly to schools and local governments. Those funds had been appropriated to finance the state's deficit spending under Democrats.

Daniels managed to hire 800 new child protective caseworkers and 250 badly-needed state troopers while still cutting the rate of increase of state spending from 5.9% to 2.8%, just over the rate of inflation. He worked feverishly to bring new business into the state, and succeeded in getting two Toyota plants, a Honda factory, a gigantic Nestle chocolate facility, and a BP (British Petroleum) project, which combined are expected to bring $3.8 billion dollars into the state economy. But he's not just a big business kinda guy. He has made the business climate vastly better with incentives for start-up businesses and tax breaks for small to medium size businesses.

As tame and mild as Daniels is, he won re-election by 18 points, including 51% of the under 25 age group that we covered on Friday. He captured 24% of Democrats, and 20% of African-Americans (and remember, this was the year of Obama). He received a predictable 67% of the senior citizen vote, but also 57% of independents in a year when independents were voting their disapproval of the Bush administration in most other states.

Daniels doesn't have to talk about conservative governance. He's enacted it, and has the track record to show for it. Those in the conservative Republican king-making corner have not only discovered him, but are starting to make sure his name gets out to the people. Before a conservative potential candidate can get a nomination, people need to know who he is. Sometimes they hire campaign consultants, or public relations people. But in some cases, they let their record speak for itself and if it gets the attention of those who can get their name in front of the public, they aren't going to throw the opportunity away. This is the stuff of which dark horse candidates are made.

Daniels has the common touch, in some ways like new Senator Scott Brown. When he first ran for election for governor, he traversed the state in a motor home when he wasn't on his motorcycle. He became noted for a great sense of humor, generally pointed at himself. His travels on the campaign trail were compiled into a YouTube presentation called "MitchTV." It was an instant hit.

In an article published at National Review entitled The Anti-Obama?, Mona Charen explains that the sobriquet has been used for Daniels before, but explains it as follows: "The contrast with Obama is not in style. Both are poised, intelligent, and well-spoken. The most glaring contrast aside from philosophy is Daniels's wealth of experience and record of governing success." Daniels believes that any Republican who runs against Obama in 2012 must be someone who knows how to reduce a deficit with serious economic programs that don't include seeding the clouds so they'll rain money. The candidate must be "prepared to govern, not just to win," says Daniels.

Daniels has said that he will serve out his term, working for the people of Indiana. He tends to be a man of his word, and tending to business is as natural to him as breathing. Unlike Obama, he does not have the addict's taste for the ultimate power-fix. Still, his broad experience in government, innate intelligence combined with wisdom, track record, and general affability may eventually put him in the spotlight he would rather not be in. If he chooses to rise to the challenge, he could be a very effective candidate. The next time we hear the name of Mitch Daniels, we owe it to ourselves to do better than say "who?"

30 comments:

StanH said...

Bill Kristol mentioned him on Chris Wallace’s show on Sunday…the trial balloon is up! He reminds me of my financial advisor, very bright, can do kind of guy, we’ll see if the Republicans and country, are ready for the steak this time as opposed to the sizzle?

BevfromNYC said...

Very interesting. This guy sounds promising. Let's hope that he spends the next few years studying up on foreign policy.

USArtguy said...

Here is a fairly neutral newspaper bio on him from 2005. http://www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/people/d/daniels_mitch/daniels.html

I voted for him (if that's a ringing endorsement) both for his first term and his re-election.

IMO one of his best traits is that even though he's been at the highest levels of both government (serving Reagan and Bush) and industry (president of Eli Lilly's North American pharmaceutical operations) he never seems to forget "the common man". He is often seen all around the state meeting with the citizens out where they are, not just on a stage in an auditorium. He doesn't restrict that merely election years either.

As an aside, it has been pretty cool for several years now to see nearly every news graphic with Indiana doing pretty well while being completely surrounded by states with economies being run in the ground by Democrat governors (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky).

AndrewPrice said...

I know almost nothing about him. It's not a great idea to make fun of CPAC (real or perceived) as those are the activists you need, but it's good to see solid Republican leadership at the state level. We need a stronger farm team at the state level if we're going to have good choices at the national level. Celebrity is not substitute for experience and a solid track record.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: He's definitely not going to win any beauty contests, and we are unlikely to see him emerging like Venus from the waves in Hawaii. That alone gives him plus points in my book. I think that the charisma with no substance that served Obama so well the last time will be easily overcome by the seriousness of a solid Republican this time. Daniels seems very sold.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: Foreign policy has not been mentioned in any way that I've found so far as part of Daniels's political credentials. He may be knowledgeable, but it hasn't been brought up, largely because his record as governor doesn't require it. Too many governors who are running their states off a cliff make pronouncements about foreign policy while they should be tending to state business (Schwarzenegger is one of them).

If Daniels does decide to run, he may have to bone up on foreign policy, or he may already have a good understanding that has so far not been an issue. Still, given his obvious talents in governance during a major economic crisis, and Obama's multiple failures both in foreign and domestic policy, if Daniels knows nothing about foreign policy, he's still ahead of the game vis a vis Obama.

And unlike Obama, Daniels has proven himself to be a quick learner, and a man who can see a problem and act on it rather than just talk about it. He plays well with the other kids, but knows when it's time to play and when it's time to lead. That already puts him ahead of any Democrat I can think of, and ahead of many potential Republican candidates.

All of that said, any candidate for the presidency must have a good working knowledge of foreign policy, so Daniels would ultimately need to prove that he can handle the issue if he wishes to be the candidate of the Republican Party, and we're still in the very early stages of that process.

LawHawkSF said...

USArtGuy: I think it's important to have good press like that, but there's another side. His political opposition disagrees with him (obviously), but he has no major negative press. Even liberals seem to speak well of him, and there's no hint of that oppositional hatred that we're seeing so much of in other places.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: If this man were my candidate, I would certainly have advised him against making that crack about CPAC, but I also think Glenn Beck's overwrought address will resonate far more negatively over the long run, while Daniels's passing remark will be forgotten fairly quickly. And any group that would pick Ron Paul as its favorite potential candidate needs some criticism anyway.

I think Daniels's remark was unfortunate, but nothing like, say, Bush I calling Ronald Reagan's fiscal proposals "voodoo economics." Bush survived that, but couldn't survive the later, and much worse mistake of saying "read my lips--no new taxes."

I have no idea if Daniels will end up running, or if he will be successful if he does run. But I like what I've seen so far.

AndrewPrice said...

That Bush crack should have warned us about the whole family. . . errrr.

I'm glad to see Glenn Beck getting blasted from everyone for his statement too. Totally ignorant grandstanding.

USArtguy said...

LawHawk, your comments about bad press caused me to think back to the last election for Governor and I seemed to recall his campaign was pretty positive and his opponent (Jill Long Thompson) was mild but on the negative side.

So I took the occasion of your note to see if YouTube still had any of the old ads up and sure enough..

search for "Jill Long Thompson Campaign ads" in YouTube and then "Mitch Daniels Campaign ads" for a comparison. Of course they're campaign ads, meaning their legal propaganda, but still you get a sense of optimism from Daniels' ads. In fact he doesn't even mention the opposition (at least in the last election).

I especially like this one called "Change That's Working":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_l8PN4tvFLo

However, should he choose to run for president I'm sure this one called "We Will" will be used against him:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dFGe_bum54

BevfromNYC said...

Actually LawHawk, what I didn't write was that, being that he already has vast executive experience including high level multi-national corporate experience, I have no doubt that he is well aware of foreign policy.

Tennessee Jed said...

It should be fun to see how this plays out. If ever there was a time for somebody to be both articulate and substantive, it is now.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: I have been relatively positive about Glenn Beck. I'm not crazy about his style, and I disagree with some of his positions, yet his blackboard presentations on his TV show serve a useful purpose for those who know in their guts that's there's something terribly wrong going on but don't have the basics to know where it's coming from. But his performance at CPAC gave all new meaning to "over the top."

LawHawkSF said...

USArtGuy: I knew Daniels's campaign videos were still available, but I didn't know about his opponent's. But then, here in California, most of us hadn't heard much about Daniels himself, let alone who he ran against. LOL

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: I took your meaning originally. And you were absolutely right. His knowledge of foreign policy will become an issue, and I think he'll probably field it well.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: Amen to that. There is no substitute for experience and Obama has proved that in ways we could never have imagined. Substance combined with the ability to articulate policy is a devastating combination in any candidate, and will be necessary when coming up against Obama in '12.

LawHawkSF said...

USArtGuy: I looked at that last video you mentioned. It pretty much matches what I said in the article about his commitment to serve out his term as governor. I don't think it's crippling, and he wouldn't be the first candidate to make a genuine commitment that was overtaken by the times and events.

LawHawkSF said...

Hey, Bev: Guess what. Pelosi supports Rangel. Wow, what a surprise! Our crooks reach out to each other from the alabaster city on the west coast, over the purple mountains majesty, across the fruited plain, and on to the other shining sea. Doesn't that just warm your cockles? LOL

BevfromNYC said...

Yes, Lawhawk, she certainly did.

She was quoted in the Post this morning - "The fact is what Mr. Rangel has been admonished for is not good. It was a violation of the rules of the House. It was not something that jeopardized our country in any way,"

My understanding is that she has to tread very lightly otherwise she risks angering the CBC for which Rangel is the most revered elder stateman.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: We're in a pickle on both coasts, aren't we? But at least your city isn't represented in the House by merely one Representative. We have Pelosi, and nobody else. While she's busy telling all those other unfortunate Democrats to be brave and risk their jobs to "do the right thing," she will probably carry San Francisco by a mere 78% or 79% in the next election no matter what happens on health care.

patti said...

i love a genuine good guy and he looks like the real deal. reminds me of lamar smith.

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: I see the resemblance to Lamar Smith, particularly on federal funding of abortion. He also bears a certain resemblance to Lamar Alexander in the other house, only not so smarmy.

Writer X said...

Until your post, I can't say that I've ever heard of him. And certainly couldn't pick him out of a line-up. He sounds like someone to watch.

Thanks, LawHawk!

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: And that's the problem with Democrats. They can all be picked out in a lineup, and frequently are. LOL

As you know, we're committed to pointing out possible future candidates and giving some information about the ones who don't have much national attention. I'm months, and perhaps even a year or two from singling one out. But we owe it to ourselves to start looking, because, personally, don't have much faith in any of the current front-runners.

BevfromNYC said...

Yeah, Lawhawk, we do have multiple reps in our city. Unfortunately they only have one brain to share between them. ;-)

LawHawkSF said...

Interesting aside: Warren Buffet just said that none of the Obama/Democrat health plans can succeed. And which governor of which state did Buffet point out as doing it right? You can probably guess, considering the thrust of my article, but you might want to take a look: Buffet to Obama.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: Wouldn't that make a great sci-fi flick? The Brain That Ate The Economy.

LawHawkSF said...

UPDATE: Well, I missed today's Wall Street Journal earlier. For a guy we haven't heard much from, Daniels is suddenly all over the place. Here's a link to his discussion of health care savings accounts in Indiana: Hoosiers and Health Savings Accounts.

FB Hink said...

I'm pulling up to the table a bit late but I have liked what I've seen in Daniels.

However in discussing future Republican candidates I think we shouldn't assume Obama would be the 2012 standard bearer. I'm starting to believe that Hilary will resign in the last quarter of this year and campaign as the Democrat savior.

LawHawkSF said...

FB: That is certainly a possibility. I haven't seen the Democratic Party this deeply divided since the Lyndon Johnson-Bobby Kennedy battles. Obama could take the Johnson route and decline to run again if Hillary can mount a strong opposition. If such a thing were possible, Johnson's ego was even bigger than Obama's. Still, I don't know if the economy alone could lead Obama to resign the office he has spent his entire life pursuing the way the Vietnam War did for Johnson. But I'm not dismissing the idea.

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