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Mitch Daniels could be a serious candidate for 2012

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There’s some controversy over the role Mitch Daniels played in the Iraq War budget projections, but he strikes me as an honest broker, willing to go well beyond the GOP talking points. This quote is via Sullivan’s digs:

 

“For decades, Republicans have railed against deficits and debt, but they’ve been too afraid of voter backlash to venture beyond marginal measures (“wasteful spending”). Daniels didn’t get the memo.

Let’s raise the retirement age, he says. Let’s reduce Social Security for the rich. And let’s reconsider our military commitments, too. When I ask about taxes—in 2005 Daniels proposed a hike on the $100,000-plus crowd, which his own party promptly torpedoed—he refuses to revert to Republican talking points. “At some stage there could well be a tax increase,” he says with a sigh. “They say we can’t have grown-up conversations anymore. I think we can.”

Agreed, on all counts except maybe that last one. Grown-up conversation? Fat chance.

Then again, if the GOP takes back the House and doesn’t manage to completely self-destruct, Daniels might actually stand a chance in 2012 in spite of his calls for a truce in the culture wars and his apparent willingness to increase revenue via higher taxes.

And you know, if the vast majority of the Republican party was as serious about governing, I think Daniels might actually make a pretty decent president. He’s honest, down to earth, and more interested in management than partisanship. There’s plenty of speculation over whether or not his budget-balancing in Indiana uses some acrobatics and magic tricks, but that’s pretty much the case in all fifty states. Everyone is juggling their future and present spending and trying to shift balance sheets to make the numbers add up. That’s just what happens during a huge housing crash and subsequent recession. Daniels is doing better than most governors, and he’s kept his image broadly appealing rather than racing to the right.

Over all, Daniels strikes me as an honest broker. I wonder if he’d be wiser to wait it out until 2016, but at this point it’s much too hard to say. It certainly looks as though he’s making presidential moves at this point, though this could be little more than the chattering class doing its thing. Either way, I imagine this will have Mitt Romney up nights. Daniels is simply a far more appealing candidate than Romney, with all of his pragmatist credentials.