In a small gathering of online political reporters at the Heritage Foundation, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniel gave his stamp of approval to Gov. Chris Christie, who is now the focus of some conservatives’ efforts to get the New Jersey governor into the race. Daniels, who attended a forum with Christie on Thursday, said “ Chris and I are good buds” When I pressed as to whether he was the sort of bold leader the party and country needed, he answered, “ Chris is the best example that I can think of. He shares my view that too many of our colleagues are too timid.”

Daniels ’ focus is on entitlement reform and the looming economic disaster that will befall us if we do not get our finances in order. (I’ll have more on that and his new book in the days to come.) Daniels says many politicians want to nibble around the edges or chastise the other side. “Chris and I see it a little differently,” he explained. Pointing to his New Jersey record on reining in state employee’ benefits, Daniels tells me, “He’s done well by meeting things head on.”

However, Daniels clearly didn’t want to leave out the possibility that the current field would stay the same. When asked if he was satisfied by the current group of candidates, he replied, “My answer would be there are some good people. I’m hoping our eventual nominee will decide to run the kind of campaign to lay the predicate for doing big things.”

He declined to share what conversations he’s had with Christie or with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). But he suggested the message may be more important than the particular messenger. “It is more important for the party to lead more specifically and boldly.” He said he could “imagine several in the field” presently who could do this.

Daniels’ comments are representative of the comments from dozens and dozens of Republican whom I have spoken with or emailed today. In one horrid outing, Perry seems to have splashed cold water on conservatives’ faces. They are determined to win back the White House so they are now pondering the question: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or someone else?

It seems we are into another phase in the race.