Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday. As he has done in past interviews, he dug in his heels defending his “social truce” idea.
And when he was asked if he could wait until the summer to run for president, he deflected, responding nonchalantly: “I have no idea. I will tell you this. I’m completely committed to the job I am in.”
And what did he mean when he said there were “slim pickings” in the race?
“Well I said if people were talking about me, then the pickings must be slim.”
Um, isn’t that saying the field is slim? Oh, wait — he really thinks “there are really good people running. I support them all.” Well, now that sounds like the GOP can get along without him. And indeed it might have to. When asked about Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), who will face a Tea Party candidate in the primary, he gave Lugar, a figure who is basically an anathema to conservatives for his stance on everything from judges to foreign policy support for President Obama, a thumbs up. Daniels declared Lugar to be a “good friend and an ally.” And then in words that will be the final straw for many conservatives, he proclaimed, “He’s the role model I’ve had in politics for a long time.”
Thunk. He might have well said that former senator Arlen Specter (D/R/D-Pa.) is his role model. Or former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is the sort of obtuseness that may mean either that Daniels is politically tone deaf or that he doesn’t want to run and is making that a self-fulfilling prophesy. A smart conservative said that Daniels was trapped and couldn’t throw the man he served as chief of staff overboard. Well, he certainly could have said, “I worked with Senator Lugar and have great respect for him. But the people of Indiana have to decide.” Instead, he figuratively planted a big kiss on the man many conservatives hope to defeat.
One clue to Daniels’s behavior is his determination to keep his own counsel. He is a former CEO and a smart man, many former Bush administration colleagues have told me. But he is not the sort to seek input or advice. In some cases that is a blessing, but in a presidential race that is a potential disaster. And it sure has been so far for Daniels.