Mitch Daniels: Candidate or influencer?

at 06:30 AM ET, 03/14/2011

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels insists he is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Sort of.

“Others have said over the course of the last year and a half that I ought to consider something that never entered my mind,” said Daniels in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I’ve agreed to consider it.”

Daniels added that he had no real timetable to make a decision, noting that he was “completely committed” to being governor of Indiana at the moment; “We’re planning some very exciting things in Indiana to make our state better,” Daniels said. “And that comes first. And if deadlines pass, they do.”

It’s hard to read those comments — particularly when compared to the far more forward-leaning remarks made by other GOPers thinking about running for the Senate — and think that Daniels is overly excited about the prospect of a national bid.

So, what exactly is he after?

Looking back at Daniels’ recent public comments — and, he has made quite a few — it seems he is more interested in impacting the debate going on in the party as it heads into 2012 than in leading the GOP as its presidential nominee.

Daniels’ speech last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. was heavy on dire talk about the state of the economy and light on the sort of red-meat rhetoric that the activist base of the party loves.

The speech won kudos from the media as well as conservative thinkers like columnist George F. Will. But those two groups are not exactly the strong foundation on which Republican presidential primary fights are won.

Ditto for Daniels’ now famous (or infamous) call for a “truce” on social issues until the economic turmoil in the country has passed. (Daniels made the comments in a profile piece by the Weekly Standard.)

Rather than backing down amid the hubbub the remarks caused among social conservatives, Daniels effectively doubled down — reiterating his belief in the need to put economic issues above all others in a series of recent interviews.

“If you don’t believe that the American public is mortally threatened -- as I do -- by this one overriding problem we have built for ourselves, then of course I’m wrong,” Daniels said in an interview with the Hoover Institution set to air today. “All I was saying was, we’re going to need to unify all kinds of people, and we’re going -- freedom is going -- to need every friend it can get.”

When asked by “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd whether that sort of approach could work in early voting states like Iowa and South Carolina, where social conservatives hold considerable sway, Daniels offered little certainty. “I don’t know,” he said. “I, you know, I don’t sit around calculating the political pluses and minuses of every little word I utter.”

Add it all up and it seems as though Daniels wants to wake up the party — and the 2012 candidates specifically — to the dangers posed by placating social conservatives in the primary fight at the expense, literally, of the economy.

It’s possible, of course, that Daniels is simply priming the rhetorical pump to cast himself as the truth-teller in a field of candidates who will tell primary voters what they want to hear. But, if that’s his game, it’s a dangerous one, as GOP primary history is littered with men and women who thought they break down the foundational pillars of the nomination process.

Maybe Daniels — a high-level political and policy thinker — can change all that if he runs. But, as of today, it doesn’t sound like he wants to.

Palin called Ailes before ‘blood libel’ video: Before posting her controversial video in response to the Tucson massacre, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin called Fox News president Roger Ailes and said she wanted to respond to critics.

“Lie low,” he said, according to New York Magazine. “There’s no need to inject yourself into the story.”

The magazine said Ailes was unhappy when she ignored him and made her infamous “blood libel” comment.

And in other Palin news, a new report says says Palin was a late addition to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) vice presidential short list because of her gender.

Paladino reneges on debts: Failed New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino (R) stiffed consultants, vendors and staffers to the tune of about $130,000, according to people who worked on his campaign.

Former Paladino employees are pressing his campaign committee for payment, as it’s millions of dollars in debt.

The tea party candidate shocked the political establishment by winning the Republican nomination over former Rep. Rick Lazio last year. Paladino went on to lose badly in the general election — in large part thanks to his many outlandish statements and behaviors.

Politics and Pints TONIGHT: Be sure to stop by the Capitol Lounge tonight at 7 for the latest installment in The Fix’s Politics and Pints trivia night!

Form a team beforehand or just show up and join one there. Prizes for the winners, and beer for everyone.

Fixbits:

Palin thinks she should be compensated for the use of her likeness in the upcoming HBO movie, “Game Change.”

You’ll soon notice Republicans using the word “jobs” more and more.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) flubbed her Revolutionary War history in an speech to New Hampshire Republicans.

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R), a favorite for the state’s open governor’s seat, isn’t looking so great after his redistricting plan went down to defeat.

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) says he’s unlikely to run for Senate now that he’s moving up the ladder on the House Ways and Means Committee.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) appeared in an episode of “Army Wives” Sunday night. The episode was filmed in January, before she was swore in as governor.

Must-reads:

No joke, politicians make fun of themselves at Washington Gridiron Dinner” — Amy Walter, ABC News

Republicans push English-only bill, requires language tests” — Pete Kasperowicz, The Hill

Big GOP donors taking time to get into 2012 race” — Philip Elliot, AP

Why Republicans should run in 2012 — to lose” — Thomas Schaller, Salon

S.C. GOP primary filled with uncertainty” — Jim Davenport, AP

Redistricting likely to shift congressional power to Northern Virginia” — Ben Pershing, Washington Post

 
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