When this year’s midterm elections are over, there will be a two-month lull. And then in January 2011, because of our crazy system of neverending election cycles, the Republican presidential field for 2012 will begin to take shape.
To date, none of the rumored candidates really stick out. Mitt Romney seems to be the early favorite. But can he credibly run on repealing “ObamaCare” when “RomneyCare” is jarringly similar? Huckabee has problems outside of his evangelical base. Tim Pawlenty’s probably running, but what distinguishes him from anyone else? Newt Gingrich is a rare intellect, a real thinking-man’s candidate. He would mop the floor with Obama in a debate — but could he win the general election? And unlike others, I don’t foresee Sarah Palin running. She knows she doesn’t poll particularly well outside the Republican base. She’s making a bunch of money giving speeches and selling books. And since Palin’s so young, she’s got plenty of time to run for higher office. Why risk all of that on this go-around?
At this point in time, six months away from the GOP’s presidential preseason, the alternative choice for conservatives is becoming increasingly clear: the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 should be Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Furthermore, his vice-presidential running mate should be Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. But more on Ryan later.
Why Daniels? Well, for starters, he’s the best governor in the country. That may seem like a subjective statement, but consider the financial state of the 50 states — and then look at Indiana. The fiscally competent manner in which Daniels has governed the Hoosier State has created recent buzz about a potential candidacy for the White House in 2012. Andy Barr at Politico writes about Daniels’ record: “Indiana has turned its $200 million deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus, paid all outstanding debts, doubled venture capital investment in the state and increased employment.”
Andrew Ferguson has an excellent piece over at the Weekly Standard detailing Daniels’ leadership style. “He treats waste in government as a moral offense,” Ferguson writes of Daniels. Ferguson continues: “No other state in the Midwest — all of them, like Indiana, dependent on a declining manufacturing sector — can match this record.” The list of accomplishments is impressive: seven percent of new U.S. employment occurs in Indiana, even though Hoosiers comprise just two percent of the country’s population; more people are moving in than out of the state for the first time in four decades; it is one of only nine states with a triple-A bond rating.
Since 2004, Daniels has been a stalwart against encroaching big government, wasteful deficit spending, and debt-ridden economics. He’s also a numbers wiz — he gets it. Daniels understands that the country’s current problems transcend mere disagreements over tax rates. The fundamental nature of our monetary system itself is inherently flawed. We overprint fiat money to pay for entitlement programs while rapidly approaching insolvency, and in doing so we devalue the very worth of our currency.
Moreover, despite his tip-top conservative credentials, Daniels isn’t a lightning rod. He can’t be caricatured. He’s proposed a “truce” on contentious social issues until our economic house is back in order. “We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” he says. Refreshingly, he’s a constitutionalist, and he’s libertarian enough to make the Ron Paul groupies and tea party people happy, but disarming enough to appeal to a broad cross-section of fiscal and social conservatives, moderates, independents, and Democrats. The biggest dirt on Daniels is that he served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush until 2003. But “he’s Bush!” won’t work for the Democrats.
Daniels is the polar opposite of President Obama substantively and stylistically. Obama had no experience; Daniels has a great deal of business and executive experience. Obama promised the world and more; Daniels is tempered in what government can provide.
Throughout the 2008 campaign, Obama was weirdly self-referential. “Has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?” Charles Krauthammer then asked. Mitch Daniels, on the other hand, is quiet, humble, and self-deprecating. He’s sincere and speaks his mind honestly, almost to a political fault. “The very lack of (Daniels’) charisma becomes charismatic,” Ferguson observes. By 2012, after four years of Obamamania celebritydom, Americans might welcome a return to a “Silent Cal” Coolidge type of president. They might desire someone who doesn’t think much of gracing magazine covers. (And for those liberals obsessed with identity politics: Daniels is half-Syrian.)
As for the VP slot in ’12, I may be getting ahead of myself here. But can anyone name a single politician in America who has publicly challenged President Obama’s policies more forcefully and coherently than Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan? Ryan is young, just 40-years-old. But he’s as smart as a whip. A few minutes of watching him discuss monetary policy or the wonders of the free market on YouTube will show that. He’s conservative but, like Daniels, not a firebrand. Like Daniels, there’s not a threatening thing about Ryan’s personality. And like Daniels, he’s a doer — and a man of ideas.
Ryan uses stubborn things, like facts, to emphasize his arguments. He seems to know every stat and chart in the books off the top of his head, and there’s no debating statistics when they’re presented to you in a clear and concise manner. Ryan’s ability to articulate complex ideas, and offer long-term remedies to difficult financial problems, has made him a rising star in the Republican Party. Watch him here take President Obama to task over the health care bill. Obama looked bewildered throughout the entire thing. Can you imagine a Ryan vs. Biden debate? It’s been said that Obama has tremendous respect for Ryan as an opponent. Something tells me Obama doesn’t want to see much of Ryan on the campaign trail come 2012. All the more reason he should be on it.
Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” is the most serious legislative proposal in Congress today. The roadmap addresses the future of America’s fiscal and monetary policies, as well as the total transformation of our bankrupt entitlement programs. Mitch Daniels is a fan of Ryan’s ideas: “Paul Ryan is right — we need to bifurcate these programs.” What a coincidence.
A Daniels-Ryan ticket would constitute an immense economic challenge to the Obama team in 2012. Both Daniels and Ryan are new, fresh, likable, highly accomplished, and untainted by the maelstrom of hyper-partisan politics. They’re conservative enough to reconcile the tea partiers with the GOP, and factual enough to appeal to all.
Together, they look like the best the Republicans can field in 2012.