Several people have asked me my impressions of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels after interviewing him. Part of the interest comes from Republicans and conservatives looking for a horse to ride in 2012.
Daniels is attractive on several fronts. He is smart and plainspoken, with significant accomplishments in both the public and private sectors (this is part of Mitt Romney’s appeal, too, as both men have substantive private-sector experience, while President Obama has none; Daniels doesn’t have the MassCare liability and has genuine accomplishments in health reform to point to, giving him at least one policy edge over Romney). Daniels is a numbers and data guy with a command of policy specifics, a plus for Republicans who cringed every time John McCain had to wrestle with policy details in the last campaign. All of this helps explain the enthusiasm reform-minded Republicans and policy wonks have for Daniels.
Lastly, Andy Ferguson’s terrific profile of the Harley-riding pol in the Weekly Standard put a human face on Daniels to round out the picture—solid, likable, decent, genuine… maybe even presidential (the Ferguson profile might explain why Daniels’s stock has been rising lately at InTrade):
If Daniels wants a higher profile on the national stage, he needs to spend more time thinking about the country’s defense priorities and obligations going forward (for example, his criticisms of the level of defense spending in the abstract need to square with an accounting of all the threats the country and its allies face, coupled with a realistic assessment of China’s intentions and ambitions).
I didn’t ask Daniels if he was going to try to become the first president from Indiana since Benjamin Harrison, since I knew he wouldn’t answer and I didn’t want to waste time. But I came away betting against his running. I could be wrong, and any campaign would benefit from his presence. But running for president is not like running for office in Indiana, where the electorate is sincere and pleasant and campaigns are exercises in sane, civil democracy. My sense is Daniels isn’t nuts enough to want to put up with the carny-show aspects of running for president (this speaks well of him as a person, IMHO). Despite his deep concern for the country and the direction it has taken of late—see especially his remarks about Crony Capitalism—my sense is the fire is not yet raging enough for him to run.