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Why Mitch Daniels Should Enter the Race: The Real Conservative Alternative

Let me relate one episode I personally witnessed when Daniels spoke. Some months ago, when his book was published, Daniels appeared as a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I happened to be in the audience for the taping that day, and Stewart -- whose entire program is half an hour -- interviewed Daniels for more than one hour. The segment did not air, and was posted instead on the program’s website. I was greatly impressed by the calm manner in which Daniels spoke to and explained his conservative views to Stewart, who, as we all know, is a bona fide left-liberal in his personal views.

After the taping, Stewart did something I think is rather unusual. He came back out to the audience, and said something like : “Isn’t Mitch Daniels the real thing? Isn’t he terrific? Why can’t other Republicans be like him?” He also speculated on how different it might be if Daniels entered the race himself, and noted that one outspoken audience member (not me) made her voice known before the taping about how she wanted him to run, and how she supported him strongly. Stewart even mentioned that to Daniels during the taping, and he did so again in his post-show remarks.

If the liberal Jon Stewart can be impressed by Mitch Daniels, even though he disagrees with his prescriptions, and can listen to him and judge his arguments without rancor, that says something to me about Daniels' wide appeal. He too has made money in his life, but he does not come off as the stereotype of the rich capitalist in a top hat that the Obama team will use to beat Mitt Romney over the head  if he wins the nomination.

That is not Romney’s fault. He is a good man, and in the absence of another candidate, I am strongly backing him. But he makes the kind of comments (the $10,000 bet and $400,000 a year in speaker’s fees is not much) that enables his opponents to easily paint him as an out-of-touch elitist who is far removed from the common man and his concerns.

In the meantime, if Gingrich does win the nomination, the bloodletting between Newt and Mitt through the primary season will weaken his candidacy, and the Republican Party will make Gingrich the equivalent of the Democratic Party’s candidacy of George McGovern in 1972.

So I support those who hope for a brokered convention, at which time neither Mitt nor Newt will have enough votes to win on a first ballot, and the Republican Party can turn to someone else with a real chance to win against Barack Obama. At this point, I think, that candidate is Mitch Daniels.

See video of Mitch Daniels' rebuttal here.

UPDATE: 11:25 am East Coast Time

In Today's Weekly Standard blog, Jay Cost makes a further case for Mitch Daniels entering the race:

Somebody else – somebody with the ability to make the case for reform in a sober and courageous manner – should jump into this race. And not just to keep Obama from a second term. If 2012 is a decisive election – then we need a candidate with the courage and rectitude to make the choice clear to the voters, so that once in office he has the mandate to fix this mess.

Daniels could be that candidate. While he could not win an outright majority of delegates because of the passing of too many filing deadlines, he could do what Bobby Kennedy attempted in 1968: get in late, do well in the latter contests, win some big states, and make the case that, early primaries aside, he is the true choice of the party, the one who could unify everybody around a common cause. If nobody has won a majority of delegates by June, that could very well be enough for a dark horse victory for Daniels.

Let’s hope he’s open to the idea.