The Mitch Daniels Niche

Among Republican governors, Mitch Daniels of Indiana was widely recognized as a leading light until he stepped down from office earlier this year. Now there is a pair of southern governors, Pat McCrory of North Carolina, the former mayor of Charlotte, and Bill Haslam, the former mayor of Knoxville, who might fill the wonkish niche he’s left open. McCrory has just come into office, so it remains to be seen if he’ll live up to his promise. Haslam, in office since 2011, has demonstrated great acumen on the political and policy fronts, as Alexander Burns recounts in a glowing Politico profile:

Since his election in 2010, Haslam has overhauled the Tennessee civil service, stripped back teacher tenure, cut taxes, enacted tort reform and expanded charter schools. Add up the various items on his agenda, and it looks a lot like a version of the pro-growth platform Washington Republicans have been grasping for.

Haslam has done all that during his first term without triggering the kind of large-scale backlash that other aggressive Republican governors have encountered. 

Haslam is far from flawless. His caution on civil service reform might at some later date be viewed as a lost opportunity. Yet his reformist bent merits attention and respect from the national GOP, as does his crazily high (68 percent) approval rating. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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