We've written about the Indiana governor in this space before. Mitch Daniels is arguably the best governor in the country, boasting a record replete with cutting taxes, streamlining government, putting the screws to wasteful spending and paying off all of Indiana's outstanding debts. When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that his state would be forced to raise income taxes across the board, Daniels called a press conference the next morning and taunted his neighbor to the west, pointing out that under his leadership, Indiana has transformed itself into one of the most business-friendly states in the Union.
Daniels is a fundamentally serious man. Short, balding and bland, he nonetheless possesses what George Will has called "the charisma of competence." Unlike the rest of the Republican field, Daniels has never sought out presidential speculation, and in fact has often shied away from the spotlight; instead, it's been leading conservatives like Will and David Brooks who have highlighted his masterful record and sterling resume as evidence of presidential material. In other words, the spotlight has found him.
Although serious conservatives make the least noise, there are millions who would love Daniels if they knew more about him. He has the intellectual gravitas that is lacking in Palin, Trump and Santorum and would make the likes of Gingrich, Romney and Pawlenty look like demagogues in any debate.
He demonstrates a masterful grasp of both the nuances of public policy making and the fundamental underpinnings of the conservative cause as espoused by Burke, Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan.
If Daniels chooses to run, the division of the Republican primary vote will be truly bizarre: Daniels' record indicates that he is arguably the most conservative candidate in the prospective field, but because of his intellectual gravitas and serious manner, he could take the lion's share of the moderate vote that went for John McCain and Rudy Guiliani in 2008.
We've written here before that we believe there is a massive gap in the center of the Republican Party. Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich and Santorum have repeatedly attempted to one-up each other and demagogue each and every national issue. Donald Trump is either engaged in a massive publicity stunt or truly is a clown. John Thune, the unremarkable but serious senator from South Dakota, announced in February that he would not run. Despite his massive fundraising network, Jeb Bush appears unwilling to jump in. And just yesterday, Daniels' close friend Haley Barbour announced that he won't seek the nomination, either. In a prepared statement, Daniels said he would have gladly supported Barbour's candidacy if he ran.
Instead, with Thune, Bush and Barbour on the sidelines, the spring and summer of 2011 could be Daniels' moment to finally step into the spotlight and brandish his formidable record. Barbour will likely endorse him; Bush has been very complementary of Daniels in recent weeks in light of Daniels' sweeping education reforms. Daniels has even received kind words from tea party types like Dick Armey. Columnists like Will, Brooks and Ross Douthat have been pushing him to run for months. With Indiana's legislative session nearing a close, is it finally time?
We're pulling for the governor to throw his hat in the ring. He would be an outstanding president.