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Posted at 9:42 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Mitch Daniels calls debt the new 'Red Menace'

By Aaron Blake

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday that the nation's growing debt amounts to a new "Red Menace", equating the country's fiscal situation to its Cold War fight with Russia.

"It is the new Red Menace, this time consisting of ink," Daniels said at his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. "We can debate its origins endlessly and search for villains on ideological grounds, but the reality is pure arithmetic.

The Soviet threat during the second half of the 20th Century was the main theme of Daniels' speech, which lasted just over a half-hour and was chock full of dense rhetoric and almost devoid of applause lines.

Daniels made no mention of his own political plans in his address -- and remained silent when the Fix asked him directly about it earlier in the night -- but did lay out a broad platform for conservatives heading into 2012 with a near-singular focus on reining in the nation's debt.

Daniels said reelecting President Obama could be a "fatal last dose of statism" for a country that needs another period of significant economic growth in order to get on its feet.

"We don't have a prayer of defeating the Red threat of our generation without a long boom of almost unprecedented duration," Daniels said. "Every other goal, however worthy, must be tested against, and often subordinated to," that goal.

Daniels repeatedly hit on the idea that the country was on the road to socialism -- a popular sentiment among Republicans activists who reject the growth of the federal government under President Obama.

Daniels noted the National Basketball Association's flirtation with increased revenue-sharing, noting that Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl (Wis.), the owner of the small-market Milwaukee Bucks, had been pushing for big-market teams to help teams like his.

"At a coffee break, [Mikhail] Prokhorov, the new Russian owner of the New Jersey Nets, murmured to my friend, 'We tried that, you know. It doesn't work,'" Daniels said -- in a Russian accent no less!

Daniels' made no specific mention of social issues, dodging an opportunity to explain his past comment that people should agree to a "truce" on those matters until the nation is back on its fiscal feet.

He did, however, make a not-so-subtle reference to the idea that ideological purity should not be the goal for the party. "Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers," Daniels said. "I for one have no interest standing in the wreckage of our republic saying 'I told you so, you should have done it my way.'"

Daniels also urged a more civil brand of political discourse, recalling during his time in the Reagan Administration when the President Reagan admonished his staff that it had only opponents, not enemies.

Hanging over the entire speech were questions about Daniels' political future. But the governor didn't even offer a hint as to where he is leaning or when he might go public with his plans.

The closest he got to 2012 was in warning the audience that winning alone wouldn't be enough.

"The worst would be to win the election and then prove ourselves incapable of turning the ship of state before it went on the rocks, with us at the helm," Daniels said.

By Aaron Blake  | February 11, 2011; 9:42 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012, Republican Party  
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