Examining the Potential GOP Candidates (Part V): Mitch Daniels

Governor Mitch Daniels (R – Ind.) embodies the lessons learned by Republicans in 2010 that can defeat President Barack Obama. Daniels places less emphasis on social issues and focuses on economic and fiscal issues most important to Americans. However, he has shown little willingness to put himself forth as a candidate.

A numbers guy that will appeal to fiscal conservatives, Daniels has a record of success with respect to balancing the budget. During his first term as governor, he proposed tax increases, budget cuts, and privatization plans to balance the budget for the first time in eight years. This brought him into conflict with both Republicans and Democrats. During his second term, state revenues declined dramatically and he was forced to balance the budget by employing deep spending cuts.

As a young voter, Daniels embodies the characteristics I look for in a candidate. He forms his positions around facts and numbers. He places emphasis on the issues most important to me like the national deficit and the economy. Should he be the nominee against Obama, I would definitely vote for him. 

Daniels could be one of the strongest Republican candidates against Obama. A candidate that ignores politics and does what is best for his constituents could sit well with many independents and “Reagan Democrats.” Most analysts agree that it will be difficult to ensure the country’s long term financial security without an all-of-the-above approach using tax increases, spending cuts, and entitlement reform. His record of being opposed by both parties to juggle the budget demonstrates his willingness to tackle the national deficit, regardless of politics. An article in The Economist states, “(Daniels) is, in short, just the kind of man to relish fixing a broken state – or country”.

While his electability in a general election is favorable, the governor will likely not enjoy the same enthusiasm with the GOP base in the primaries. Focusing on fiscal and diminishing social issues was a winning formula in 2010; however, a GOP primary is different territory. His push to increase taxes during his first term as governor will not sit well with many Republicans and he has little experience on a national stage. Additionally, he has made a consistent effort to place less emphasis on social issues. He told the Weekly Standard that he favored a truce on social issues.

The pressing question remains whether Governor Daniels is even interested in the job. He continues to deny such interests saying at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast in February that, “The simple fact is, I don’t plan to do it, I don’t expect to do it, I really don’t want to do it." Unfortunately for the GOP, he appears to be convinced it is not his time to run; however, things change rapidly in politics.

Governor Daniels would likely be the biggest opposition to President Obama’s reelection campaign. His brand as a commonsense governor that focuses on the numbers and living above the political fire would appeal to voters across the spectrum. With all this being said, he would have considerable work among the GOP base, especially with social conservatives and no compromise ideologues. He might be just what the doctor ordered to fix our broken piggy bank, but I do not expect the GOP to prescribe him.

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