Behind the scenes, even before the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections, Republicans are beginning to think about who can run for President in 2012. A great deal of attention has been paid this past week to Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana. He is featured on the cover of the Weekly Standard, accompanied by a first rate article by Andrew Ferguson. Philip Klein of The American Spectator online covered a press conference at the Heritage Foundation that Daniels held in Washington, DC Tuesday. And if the press conference was any indication, there will be much more speculation about a possible Daniels candidacy in the days ahead.
Governor Daniels is well-qualified for the presidency. As he says, the Republicans are going to want a winning candidate, but they also are going to want someone who is experienced. With Daniels himself they would have someone who has been a senior staffer on Capitol Hill (Sen. Lugar) and the White House (President Reagan), a public policy think tank head (Hudson Institute), a successful businessman (Eli Lilly Company), a Cabinet secretary (Director of OMB under G.W. Bush) and a popular governor with a record of accomplishments that are highly relevant to the needs of the country as a whole.
Daniels is an serious thinker and able writer. He is naturally witty and unassuming. He wouldn't speak about the government in the first person, in contrast to, say, our current president. As a campaigner, he is easy to meet and easy to like.
Even though his political experience is mostly at state and national levels, Daniels has close acquaintance with defense and foreign policy issues through his service with Sen. Lugar and Hudson Institute. He always attracts good staff. If he runs, his circle of advisers is likely to be stellar. Likewise, his Administration, if he is elected.
Daniels may have stumbled in the Weekly Standard interview, however, when he suggested that social issues should be set aside awhile in order to concentrate on the nation's economic peril. That approach has some surface appeal, but dig very deep in the national psyche and political landscape and you find that social issues are inextricable from economic issues. Both have to do with human dignity and liberty.
The task is not to separate economic and social issues, therefore, but to explain each in terms of the other, as Heritage Foundation itself did in a recent book called Indivisible. The book's essays by economists look at social issues and the essays by social conservative look at economic issues--to their mutual edification. Dr. Jay Richards, now again a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute, edited the volume.
Indivisible can be ordered free from Heritage, which is in a price range the famously frugal Governor Daniels should appreciate.
In the end, whether he decides to run for president or not, I expect that Mitch Daniels will connect the two topics himself, and do so ably.