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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Set Field? Open Field? Either Way, It’s a Field Without Mitch



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It’s not that big news breaks every time I’m on solo dad duty; it’s just that I remember every time that I’m away from a computer for long stretches and an earthquake shakes the political world — like the time I missed the arrest of Rod Blagojevich sitting in a pediatrician’s waiting room with lousy cell-phone reception.

The Monday Morning Jolt, heavy on reaction to Mitch Daniels’s decision to not throw his hat in the ring.

Daniels Won’t Be Around; He Will Be Mitched By Some

Glad I didn’t get started on some 15,000-word profile of Mitch Daniels.

You already know what you thought of Daniels. I found him a fascinating guy, a potentially strong president and a perhaps fatally flawed candidate; any governor who can keep his state’s budget balanced when almost all of the others are facing budget crises warrants a look.

The weaknesses? Well, he looks a little like Frank Purdue, he comes up to my shoulder, and he’s a true policy wonk, prone to talk in detail. While I think I get what he meant with the “truce on social issues” talk — our economic and foreign policy/national security crises are so pressing, they’ll eat up 90 percent of the time and energy of the next president — he managed to articulate that sense of prioritization in a manner that maximized the suspicion and distrust among social conservatives. And in interview after interview, he offered hint after hint that he just didn’t want to deal with the epic family emotional turmoil that accompanies any big-time presidential campaign.

Pejman Yousefzadeh was an early and vocal fan: “I certainly understand and appreciate his concerns regarding his family, and how they may have been affected by a Presidential run; much of Daniels’s supposed ‘dithering’ has in fact been deliberation and care in trying to decide whether a campaign would have been right for his family. Others appear to like having their preferred Presidential candidates jump into the race with both feet, without much care or concern over whether the initiation of a candidacy is the right thing to do under the circumstances, but as per usual with Daniels, he decided to be more intelligent and thorough in the process of making a decision. I applaud his outlook, and his healthy sense of humility — not to mention his appreciation of the gravity of the decision he had to make. I only wish that the decision had been a ‘yes.’ I don’t know what is in the future for Daniels; he is term-limited in his current job, so next year, there will be a race for Governor of Indiana that will not feature him as a candidate. I can only hope, however, that this highly intelligent, conscientious, substance-oriented patriot will somehow find himself in a position where he can render service to the country.”

. . . It seems Robert Stacy McCain has a new crusade: “You see the pattern: Barbour quit, Trump quit, Huckabee quit and now Daniels quits, while Herman Cain — the man who all the pundits say can’t win — just keeps going and going.”

Hugh Hewitt thinks the field is set, and the field is strong, and doesn’t understand why some complain: “[Neither Chris Cillizza] nor his fellow MSMer at the New York Times Michael Shear nor anyone at Politico, and certainly not lefty Jonathan Martin, seems to have considered that the reason various candidates are taking a pass this year is that the top two contenders — Romney and Pawlenty — have essentially locked up the campaign talent and the money commitments necessary to mount a traditional campaign, and that insurgent candidates are already in the hunt in the form of Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum. Jon Huntsman also presents himself as an unusual sort of candidate taking even more space from the idea of a later entrant. Though the circle of MSMers keep saying the GOP longs for another candidate, that is a Manhattan-Beltway media elite meme. The Republicans I know have picked candidates and begun raising money for their choices. They are quite satisfied with the field, except for Sarah Palin’s many fans, and many of them are content with Michele Bachmann as a substitute.”

Bill Kristol comes from the opposite perspective: The field is wide open, and will remain so for quite a while: “It would be unfair to call the current field a vacuum. But it doesn’t exactly represent an overflowing of political talent. And insofar as politics abhors even a near-vacuum, others are bound to get in. I now think the odds are better than 50-50 that both Rick Perry and Paul Ryan run. I also now think they (and others — Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, John Bolton) may not feel they have to decide until after Labor Day — or maybe even until October or even November. The field could well remain open and fluid until Thanksgiving.”


Tags: Mitch Daniels


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