A number of conservative commentators are touting Indiana governor Mitch Daniels as a possible 2012 presidential contender. Daniels has been mentioned in a bunch of columns, is on the cover of National Review, and was selected by the GOP to give a recent Saturday radio address.
Daniels came to Washington Wednesday for a panel discussion, "Making Conservatism Credible Again," sponsored by the Hudson Institute and the Bradley Foundation. After the talk, I asked him what accounts for all the talk about a 2012 candidacy. "It shows how slim the pickings are," Daniels said. A moment later, apparently not wanting to appear too dismissive of the Republican field, he added, "I think you'll see new sprouts flowering up more quickly than you'd expect."
At the Hudson event, Daniels listed a number of things he believes the GOP has to do to climb back into national contention -- the party has to be "active, forward-looking, constructive, intimately connected with the lives of ordinary citizens, and friendly," he said. All that, he said, will be in stark contrast with the other side: "The meanest people in American politics are on the left, bar none," Daniels said. "No conservative I know can hold a candle for sheer outright meanness, sometimes savagery. And of course, that comes from believing that power is everything and winning is the only thing that matters, which we do not believe."
For all his profile-raising, Daniels insists he will not run in 2012. "I've only ever run for and held one office," he said at the Hudson event. "It's the last one I'm going to hold."
For more, I have a new story, "Can Mitch Daniels save the GOP?" up on the Politics page.