Daniels had become the hottest thing in the Republican race over the past six weeks, as the GOP establishment saw someone who could credibly run as a conservative in the primary and had demonstrated crossover appeal in a general election.
Our take on the winners — and the losers — from Daniels’ announcement is after the jump.
* Mitt Romney: Daniels was being cast as the establishment alternative to Romney. And now he’s gone. While Romney remains a somewhat tenuous frontrunner, the decisions by Daniels and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to stay on the sidelines clearly strengthen his hand. Romney will almost certainly make a behind-the-scenes push to coalesce the establishment behind him in the coming weeks. He has a better chance at succeeding in that endeavor than he did going into this past weekend.
* President Obama: There is a narrative now developing that the thinning Republican field is due to a belief that Obama is going to be very tough to beat in 2012 (Huckabee said as much in the run-up to his no-go announcement last weekend). While major decisions like whether or not to run for president are very rarely the result of a single factor, Democrats will almost certainly do what they can to cast the recent developments as evidence of Obama’s strength.
* Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty’s slow-and-steady approach continues to pay dividends. A Daniels candidacy would have complicated Pawlenty’s safe-and-serious niche in the race. But, with Daniels out and Pawlenty getting in today — a nice bit of timing — it now looks like the Minnesota governor is best positioned to be the Romney alternative. Now all he has to do is win the Iowa caucuses...
* Chris Christie: Christie has acknowledged that while he isn’t planning to run for president, constantly being asked about it is a very nice thing. Mike DuHaime, a Christie strategist, told The Fix on Sunday that “the makeup of the field has never been a part of his decision-making process.” Christie is still very, very — and add one more “very,” for good measure — unlikely to run for president. But with Daniels out, the number of people asking Christie to consider it will grow exponentially.
* Republican establishment: One month ago, the biggest problem for Washington Republicans was how they were going to choose between Daniels and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in the 2012 race. Both Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Daniels, a former Office of Management and Budget director, were known — and liked — commodities in Washington. And now, neither of them are running, leaving many longtime GOP operatives without a dog in the fight.
* Policy wonks: Daniels was an unapologetic policy maven. Need evidence? Go back and watch his education speech at the American Enterprise Institute earlier this month. (He used a slideshow to make his points!) While Democrats in Indiana disagreed with many of his policy proposals, even state party chairman Dan Parker acknowledged that Daniels would have brought a “serious tone to a GOP field” in a statement Sunday. That kind of sentiment from your opposition is rare.
* The Truce: Daniels got himself crosswise with a not-insignificant element of the Republican base when he called for a “truce” on social issues in order to focus full attention on the debt and spending issues the country faces. Daniels had made clear he would double-down on that approach had he run for president. But with him out of the race, you won’t hear any top-tier candidate talk about the truce — except in pejorative terms — any time soon.
* Late-risers: The Fix is, admittedly, not a morning person. And especially not a Sunday morning person. So, Daniels’ decision to send an overnight missive to supporters about his decision was greeted with a groan when the news broke — thanks to phone call — in The Fix household.
Palin tell-all author speaks out: Frank Bailey, a former top aide to Sarah Palin who is releasing his book about her this week, tells the Associated Press that Palin had been planning to quit as governor of Alaska for months before she actually did so, and that she did it so she could make money.
In the book, Bailey also describes himself as Palin’s political enforcer, says she illegally coordinated with the Republican Governors Association on a 2006 campaign ad, and says she habitually fails to meet her scheduling commitments.
“I’m sad at a lot of wasted potential,” Bailey told the AP. “I certainly don’t hate her, but I look at a lot of wasted opportunities on her part.”
Small business group fights healthcare bill: A newly formed coalition of small business groups is uniting to beat back a new tax they say is hidden within the Democratic health care bill passed last year by Congress.
“Stop the HIT” aims to get Congress to defeat the so-called Health Insurance Tax (HIT), which the small business groups contend will cost small businesses $87 billion over the course of the first decade and more than twice that amount in the next decade.
The coalition will try to build opposition to the tax increase through education and grassroots action.
“This new tax will be almost entirely passed from insurers to small businesses and their employees, raising health care costs and increasing economic uncertainty for this vital sector of our economy,” National Federation of Business President and CEO Dan Danner said in a statement.
Obama goes to AIPAC: Obama on Sunday attempted to reassure Israelis and their U.S. supporters that his speech last week was not a shift in foreign policy and that the 1967 lines are more a starting point than a goal.
“Israelis and Palestinians will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a Jewish lobbying group. He described his call for “mutually-agreed swaps” as “a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation.”
Obama said that “if there is controversy, it is not based on substance.” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu balked at Obama’s Friday speech in an unusually public disagreement between the two leaders.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party was satisfied with the speech and said Netanyahu’s forceful stand prompted Obama to make it. Palestinian reaction was mixed.
RedRock Strategies formed: Two big-name Republican consulting firms are joining forces out West.
Ryan Erwin Associates and Casteel Erwin Associates have formed a new political consulting firm, RedRock Strategies. The two strategists joined forces last year to form Casteel Erwin Associates; now they’re combining their two firms into one.
Ryan Erwin is a former leader of the Nevada Republican Party and was a senior adviser on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. Corbin Casteel is a Texas-based consultant and former finance director for the state GOP. He currently works for former state Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, who is running for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R-Texas) seat.
The new firm will have offices in Washington, Austin and Las Vegas.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) writes an op-ed saying he will not support Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Medicare reforms — a significant move from a Republican senator.
Ryan keeps the door open to a future presidential run.
Former Illinois Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) announced Sunday that he will challenge Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) next year. Walsh is likely to be targeted by redistricting and is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. The India-born Krishnamoorthi may face a primary but is expected to be formidable.
CBS’s Bob Schieffer and Newt Gingrich duel over Gingrich’s old jewelry debt at Tiffany’s.
Ryan goes after Gingrich, too.
Sharron Angle targets the Republican Party in an unusual fundraising letter.
Could the Bush clan – thought to favor Daniels – be looking at former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman now that Daniels is out? Huntsman will meet with George H.W. Bush and his wife on Monday.
Democrat Kathy Hochul’s ace in the hole on the last weekend before Tuesday’s special election in upstate New York? Bowzer from Sha Na Na.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) visits Washington state, where he may run for reelection.
Is Sarah Palin buying a house in Arizona?
“With Daniels out, GOP presidential field takes clearer shape” – Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz, Washington Post
“Daniels Move Stirs Concerns About Field of Republicans” – Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times
“Netanyahu aides play down differences with Obama” – Joel Greenberg, Washington Post
Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.