Chris Cillizza at The Fix has a rundown on the advisers closest to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) who would likely form the nucleus of his campaign, should he decide to run. The list is noteworthy on a few counts.
First, the lineup is exceptionally light on presidential campaign experience. Mark Lubbers was on a 1996 Dick Lugar presidential campaign (honest, the senior Indiana senator really did run once). Kim Alfano is the closest to a seasoned national campaign adviser, and her experience consists primarily of a brief stint as a consultant the ill-fated Fred Thompson campaign. GOP advisers with whom I spoke praise Alfano’s abilities, but are generally not impressed with the quality and level of the campaign team’s experience. Indeed, if you compare the list to the all-star lineups put together by Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty you wonder whether Daniels understands the rigors of a national campaign.
Second, as one adviser put it, “You’d think for a guy with strong Bush ties that you’d see some of the Bush operatives lining up to help Daniels get prepared. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case.” This is especially true, if, as has been reported, Daniels has spoken to former president George W. Bush about a run. Two GOP communications gurus point to the presence of the former head of the National Economic Council, Al Hubbard. He’s certainly a respected economist and able fundraiser, but not the sort who would run a campaign or serve as a top strategist. Others suggest that once Daniels comes on board many Bush administration veterans will climb on board.
In short, it doesn’t appear there as of now is an “A” team of top-notch advisers on whom Daniels would rely. That is perhaps to be expected at this stage given former White House staffers’ observations that Daniels is someone who keeps his own counsel. That, in a presidential race, however, has considerable downsides and leaves a candidate unused to the national spotlight without critical sounding boards. (In private, Daniels has suggested he really can do without a lot of consultants.) If Daniels does throw his hat into the ring, he most likely will need to bolster his home-state team with some seasoned pols.
Now, as one GOP communications guru reminds me, the trio of David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs did not have extensive presidential experience. But that said, the current low-wattage Daniels team may reflect Daniels’s ambivalence about running as well as the difficulty of fielding a top team after others have skimmed the cream of the campaign crop.
One thing is certain: Daniels’s rather rocky start (including unpreparedness on foreign policy and his “social truce” gaffe that lingered for months) demonstrate the perils of running a national campaign with a small circle of home-town confidantes.