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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 02/23/2011

More on Daniels's folly

By Jennifer Rubin

Some readers and Republican insiders contend I have been too tough on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. One writes, "Didn't Daniels restrict collective bargaining, shrink [the number of] government workers, privatize large swaths of Indiana's public sector, and make tough decisions on limiting government and growing economy?" Yes, but let's examine precisely why Daniels came off so poorly last night.

First, a correction: I stated previously, "Last night both Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had their opportunity in the national limelight to advance their position in their fights against public-employee unions and to advance their own careers." Both were opportunities to advance their careers and both concerned fights with unions, but only Walker is fighting with public sector unions. I should have made clear Daniels's fight was with private-sector unions.

However, Daniels still erred in a manner, I would suggest, that diminishes his strength as governor and virtually dooms his presidential candidacy.

Most important, he gave up something (the right-to-work legislation) without getting anything in return. That's bad bargaining, and rightly or wrongly will be taken as a sign of weakness by the Democrats. Another smart, very aggressive governor told me a short time ago, "All of life is a negotiation. You have to convince the other guy you are more serious than he is." Daniels, I would argue, did just the opposite.

Second, his tangled himself up badly in praising the Democrats. He's now trying to walk back his inadvisable language:

Gov. Mitch Daniels now concedes his supportive remarks of House Democrats' decision this week to walk out on their jobs and flee to the Land of Lincoln in an effort to kill right to work legislation were premature after seeing the full list of demands House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) that must be met before his caucus returns to the State House. He now says his words of praise for the move by House Democrats were "careless."

Again, not very smart and quite unhelpful in asserting himself as a tough, firm leader.

And finally, the tone and atmospherics were simply bad. The immediate contrast was made between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who isn't making concessions, and Daniels, who is. Walker's sharp words of criticism for state legislators stood in sharp contrast to Daniels's now-recanted praise. It was precisely the wrong time to appear irresolute.

The dig on Daniels is that he is so maniacal on entitlement reform and spending restraint that he is willing to give up on most everything else (e.g. social issues). Last night made the problem worse.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 23, 2011; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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Next: How to deal with liabilities


Daniels, like all putative Republican candidates, is simply not ready for prime time. Obama will coast to reelection despite his terrible record.

Posted by: Inagua1 | February 23, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

There are many Republicans who are dissatisfied with the better known potential candidates -- Romney, Palin and Huckabee. They are looking for a strong conservative who can beat Obama. Yesterday Thune announced he's not running and Daniels screwed the pooch. Time to take a close look at Pawlenty.

Posted by: eoniii | February 23, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

T-Paw or any other Republican is fine by me. Any Republican is better than Obama. I just think Obama is unbeatable. Obama has got huge majorities of Blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asians, public employees, and union members. Even adjusting for overlap, no Republican has a chance against these demographics.

Posted by: Inagua1 | February 23, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Mitch threw the public sector unions out his first day in office. Last night legislation passed to limit teacher collective bargaining rights. Read the truth here:

Posted by: mobrien79 | February 23, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Excellent article Jennifer! Daniels was done when he sold out the social cons, the biggest plurality in the party. I'm one supply sider who's all for TPaw, unless until Christie or Ryan get into the game......

Posted by: WS_Bull | February 23, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

As you pointed out on 02/18/2011, Daniels also vetoed legislation that would have killed the Missouri plan (method of selecting judges) in parts of Indiana.

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 23, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Just put Sarah out there. America will be forever grateful for the ensuing train wreck and comedy.

Posted by: danw1 | February 23, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Inagua, I think Obama is a slight favorite to be re-elected, but only because of the risk that the Republicans will nominate a weak candidate, say, Palin or Huckabee or Gingrich. Obama is south of 50% approval in the polls and is visibly failing in his responsibilities, a la Jimmy Carter. The Republicans need to find a candidate who is a credible president and who can unite the party while appealing to independents.

I favor a simple test: Can this candidate carry Ohio? If not, move on.

Posted by: eoniii | February 23, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse


The Ohio test is a good standard. I assume that Obama will unite the Republicans, since I doubt if any senitent adult is neutral about the homeowner tax credit, cash for clunkers, the stimulus, the auto bailouts, Obamacare, or bowing to the Sheik. The difficulty is finding a decent Republican candidate.

Posted by: Inagua1 | February 23, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

First of all, I agree with posters who say any Republican is better than a second Obama term. (Can Jennifer say that if Palin is the republican nominee?) Daniels has essentially withdrawn (voluntarily or involuntarily) from consideration. There are too many other strong, principled prospects. No need to to waste time and energy on someone who cannot stand up to opposition. Walker is a good role model, Daniels is not.

Posted by: DocC1 | February 23, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I'll take Daniels, any day of the week. We could use a little more pragmatism. As a nation,. we are choking on ideology. The Republicans are choking on it. The Democrats, on the other hand, still can compromise. No choice to be made.

Posted by: samsara15 | February 23, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

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