He's No Sarah Palin, but Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Could Unite the "Party of No"

He's no Sarah Palin, but Indiana governor's mix of conservatism and realism could be a force in 2012.


By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Now here is an interesting morsel. A Midwestern governor, labeling his rivals the "party of no," got re-elected in November with the biggest vote total of any statewide candidate in history. And he is a Republican.

That is correct. Our old friend Mitch Daniels, who went home to Indiana to engage in some hands-on governing after years as a well-liked Republican apparatchik here in Washington, says lambasting the other guy is not enough. The voters kind of like to know where candidates propose to take them.

This may seem elementary, but it may come as a surprise to Republicans in Congress, who seem to believe that a scorched-earth approach is the path to power.

No so. "Always, always you have to start with a better idea," Daniels told National Journal.

"To me there's not a lot of upside in whining. I hear Republicans whining about, you know, the Democrats not being bipartisan. You know, `We weren't included in this, we weren't at the table in that.' Well, get over it...

"I don't think the public is ever particularly impressed with process arguments. What (Republicans) should say instead is, `Well, here's the way we would spread health insurance and not ration care and not take away your freedom in the process. If they'd let us in the room, this is what we'd suggest.'

"I'd concentrate on your better answer, recognize that the other side won an election. (The Democrats) are ruthless about what they want to do to seize territory for the government from private life. Go to work on alternative ideas that maybe one day we'll get the chance to try," Daniels said.

Good advice. Daniels is not overwhelmingly charismatic. (Although he does ride a Harley.) Rush and the Base may not love him the way they lust for Sarah.

But Daniels has a good sense of humor and a fine appreciation of human frailty, is both a principled conservative and a political realist (having learned his craft while working in the Reagan White House), knows government inside-out (from his years as OMB director), and thumped the Democrats pretty good last November, even as Barack Obama was carrying the state.

As Michael Barone recently pointed out, Daniels is exactly the kind of Republican that could woo independent voters and conservative Democrats—maybe even young folks—back to the GOP in 2012.

Who knows if the issue set that could propel Daniels—fiscal sanity, sound and limited government—will be on the agenda then. Maybe we will be looking for a foreign policy wiz.

But now that our pal Barone has left Thomas Jefferson Street for the innovative and lucrative field of...newspapers (?) it falls to me to wave the Daniels presidential banner. I recommend him to you for your consideration.

Check out our political cartoons.

  • Read more by John Aloysius Farrell.
  • Read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
  • Read more about conservatives.