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Posted at 8:42 AM ET, 01/14/2011

Mitch Daniels's error

By Jennifer Rubin

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels made a cardinal error in presidential campaigning: he has raised his visibility and made some gaffes without the national staff to help him respond to a flood of criticism. Social conservatives are miffed over his suggestion last year of a "truce" on social issues. National security hawks are concerned that he is sounding more Robert Taft (Midwest isolationist) than Ronald Reagan internationalist. And now the Weekly Standard is highlighting a Cato report that will worry economic conservatives, the one group from which he was thought to have strong support. The Weekly Standard reports that Chris Edwards, who filled out the governor's fiscal report card, told John McCormack:

"He's kind of a more of a 'trains run on time' kind of guy, like a balanced budget kind of guy. He wants the government to be efficient but he doesn't necessarily want it to be smaller. Other than his property tax cut, he hasn't cut state level taxes at all. He hasn't really even proposed to cut them. Indiana has an above-average business tax. He should have proposed to cut it like Pawlenty, like Sanford proposed in South Carolina. I get a sense from some of the things he's done that his political instincts aren't quite where they should be in a terms of limited government point of view. "

John also points out that "[Tim] Pawlenty's grades from Cato were slightly better than Daniels's during the years that both were in office."

Daniels's critics are more numerous than his potential campaign staff (i.e. his small D.C. office that has been booking him at events and setting him up with fundraisers). He is, I am told by admirers, an excellent manager, but in this case he seems oddly naive to the requirements of mounting a national campaign. And, by the way, who is he going to get to staff an effort? Mitt Romney and Pawlenty are staffed and ready to go. This reflects, perhaps, his own ambivalence about running. But frankly, unless he gets his act together and starts pushing back on the array of criticism, he's not going to be able to run a successful effort.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 14, 2011; 8:42 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Next: The real issue in Arizona: Schizophrenia (Part 1)


BTW, CATO budget analyst Tad DeHaven is a former deputy director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget and has leveled similar criticisms on the CATO blog:

Dan Mitchell of CATO has also alleged that Daniels is mostly hype:

Posted by: grabowcp | January 14, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Listening to Cato means four more years of Obama, so go right ahead if you want to. He didn't get elected because we're a nation of conservatives who just lost our minds for one year. The farther right the GOP goes in the primaries, the better for the Democrats in the fall.

Furthermore, anybody proposing tax cuts at the state level would have to be out of their minds economically right now. Budget cuts? Sure! Tax cuts, when virtually all states are facing mild to severe fiscal crises? No way.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 14, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

My husband and I have a difference of opinion on him because of those issues listed. Seems like a nice, center-right kind of guy, but didn't we run one of those last time?

Posted by: birmingham1 | January 14, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I believe you are being too hard on him. In my opinion, he is the strongest candidate right now on the right.

He is a successful governor who can go toe to toe with Obama and the democrats when discussing the policy.

I believe that the republicans and the conservatives will be making a mistake by not giving him a chance and for seeking the "perfect" candidate.

Posted by: donne4real | January 14, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to mention that I am a HUGE fan. You were the reason I started making Contentions a must-read every day. Hope that you don't become a "target" of all the libs at WAPO!

Posted by: birmingham1 | January 14, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse


You have to remember that the only once in the last 5 presidential elections did the GOP win the popular vote. Congress looks like it does because there are strong conservative areas, in an overall centrist nation. The righter you go in 2012, the greater will be the loss.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 14, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Seriously -- can a bald man ever be elected to POTUS again?

Posted by: aardunza | January 14, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

From what I have read, Mitch Daniels is a big backer of highly-subsidized, highly-inefficient ethanol. Yes, I understand that Indiana is a big producer of corn, but for Mr. Daniels to make it to the national stage, that is not a stance that will excite most folks leaning conservative / libertarian.

Posted by: coffeetime | January 14, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin -- Just ten days ago you characterized statements by Daniels as missteps that can be fixed but today they are cardinal sins? In just ten days with no new original data points? Indeed, a real unforced error would be to have a national operation while saying you are focused on the Indiana legislative session. (You have run how many campaigns?)

Also, could you provide a cite for the concerns of "security hawks" that you mention?

Not sure what the Cato guys want Daniels to do -- according to the Tax Foundation, Indiana is already one of the ten best tax climates for business while Minnesota is in the ten worst ( ). And that property tax was actually a really big deal to residents. Not sure what the metrics they used for that study but it seems misleading. Could you maybe do some research before just passing along what your friends say?

Jeez -- it is over a year until Iowa. Maybe you could you chill on the bandwagon thing with your chattering buddies and wait until around St. Patrick's Day. Daniels will have hit CPAC and shared the stage with the president at the Gridiron Club dinner (which is kind of a nice get, no?). Let's see how he does before posting about so-called “unforced errors." And, if he runs, let’s see how much money he raises.

Posted by: buster5 | January 14, 2011 7:46 PM | Report abuse

And, by the way, Romney lost most of his top-shelf people to other jobs (as recently detailed by RCP) and now has the second-string team from a campaign that had major resources yet still lost to McCain and Huck. I will grant you that Pawlenty does have some talent on his team (Terry Nelson is the real deal and his policy guru from the Bush Admin. is as well), but Phil Musser, the guy running the day-to-day, not so much (check it out). Neither of their teams are all that threatening. But maybe they have convinced you that they are.

Posted by: buster5 | January 14, 2011 9:54 PM | Report abuse

544 says:
"You have to remember that the only once in the last 5 presidential elections did the GOP win the popular vote."

You are such a bullshitter I wonder what motivates you. The last 5 elections were Clinton twice and Bush twice, and Obama once. Of them, Bush and Obama won a majority of the popular vote. Clinton never did.

And of course, go back a couple more votes and you got Poppa George winning a majority and Reagan winning a majority twice. No Democrat since FDR has done that.

Posted by: OldeDog | January 16, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

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