Politics & Media
May 13, 2011, 07:44AM

Election 2012: The Daniels/Rubio GOP Ticket

How the Republicans can defeat Obama.

Picture 1.png?ixlib=rails 2.1


As things stand now in the GOP’s fight for the 2012 presidential nomination, I’ve come to believe Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is probably the best bet. I’ve heard talk of a potential Daniels-Marco Rubio ticket, and if that came to pass, it would represent a formidable challenge to Barack Obama (who, is—and will be—eminently beatable next year).
I liked Mitt Romney in 2008 and still do today, but not many others did or do, evidently, and so it’s hard to see why he’d have a much better showing this time around. Furthermore, the Massachusetts healthcare issue is obviously an enormous albatross around his neck, and The Wall Street Journal is eviscerating Romney, which may further torpedo his probable candidacy.
The various quixotic or “vanity candidates” (e.g. Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Johnson, Paul, Santorum, Trump, etc.) are absolutely unelectable, and likely not even viable for the nomination. I wish they’d go away, frankly, as they’ll just distract attention—with the help of the media—from the legitimate candidates. Jon Huntsman is a bit intriguing, I suppose, but honestly, he’s mostly a blank page. I know enough about Huntsman to suspect that Republican primary voters will view him with suspicion given he was a part of the same Obama Administration he now purportedly seeks to defeat. Tim Pawlenty has the potential to finish strong in this long race, moving slowly and cautiously while others self-destruct, but his utter blandness is probably fatal.

Daniels is also outwardly dull, but his lack of charisma is offset by intelligence, competence and a superb record in Indiana, all of which leaves Pawlenty lacking in comparison. Daniels doesn’t try to be flashy, whereas Pawlenty’s newfound twang and chatting about his “hot, smokin’ wife” seems artificial. I can’t stomach Mike Huckabee: it’s a mystery to me that he polls so well among “likely Republican voters.” But I don’t think he’ll walk away from his very lucrative media career—at least that’s my hope.

Finally, Sarah Palin. Where to start? The reality—right or wrong—is that Palin is hopeless. She can’t win a general election. In many ways I think that’s unfortunate, because she’s actually a gifted politician. But John McCain did her no (political) favor when he tapped her as his running mate in ’08. Had she avoided that pitfall and continued to serve as a popular governor in Alaska, won reelection in a landslide, burnished her foreign policy credentials and prepared for a national campaign, she could have been Obama’s worst nightmare in 2012. In Palin’s defense, I can’t recall anyone in my lifetime who was so vilified, picked apart, scrutinized and ruined by media vultures as she was three years ago. In the end, I suspect (and hope) that, like Huckabee, she’ll opt to take a pass.
A few months ago I was effusively touting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the ideal GOP candidate for 2012; and I still think he’s formidable. He has flaws, but the phrase I’ve repeatedly used to explain my support for him is that he is Obama’s political “kryptonite.” By that I mean Christie is essentially the polar opposite of Obama in those specific traits and characteristics of the President’s that many Americans find most unattractive. Obama can’t (or at least won’t) say “good morning” without his teleprompter cueing him to do so. I suspect Christie generally eschews the rigidity and constraints of adhering to such a fixed script at all times. Obama gave his acceptance speech in an open-air stadium, in front of 100,000 adoring fans, and on a stage designed to replicate Greek columns—I don’t think Christie would be caught dead doing anything of the sort. Obama dithers, equivocates, and hedges; Christie calls it like he sees it. I think Christie could put states that haven’t gone Republican in decades, such as New York and New Jersey, in play electorally, and that would not only be enormously helpful for his chances of beating Obama, but also extremely significant in stemming what appears to be the ongoing extinction of Republicans in the northeast. Does Christie have enough experience to be president? That’s debatable, but in the new, post-2008 political reality, Obama’s election as a one-term senator with no executive experience has unfortunately rendered the question moot. That said, Christie’s repeated refusals to even consider running in 2012 would be very difficult to walk back at this point. So, despite his appearances in Iowa, which keeps media and GOP interest alive, I don’t think he’ll run, and that puts me in the Daniels camp.

Now, if Daniels is persuaded by his family to stay on the sidelines, I’ll have to look for a new candidate.

  • Here is the problem with Daniels: 1) More boring than Pawlenty 2)His odd marriage 3) His anti-union stance 4) His "let's have a truce on social issues as I defund planned parenthood. If Rubio were first on the ticket I think you'd have a better argument. Obama essentially destroyed the myth that political experience is important. Therefore, Rubio's lack of experience won't hurt him. It would also diffuse a bit of the racism issue and he is far more charismatic. Huntsman on the other hand would do well against Obama if he can get past the primary ( I agree his chances are slim since working with Obama). Elections are won and lost by the center third of voters. If no further catastrophe hits the U.S. prior to the election, the only candidate that can beat Obama is one that has mass appeal (especially to the middle) which rules Daniels out. That said, I think a Rubio ticket or Huntsman ticket are the best shot. Christie is only a star because he is local. Thanks to Scott Walker, Christies anti-union position will galvanize the left and sway the middle as his image becomes national. His weight is a real problem as well. As for Palin, had she stayed in her governor position her popularity would have been destroyed by their deficits and she would be toast.

    Responses to this comment
  • I appreciate the thoughtful response, Texan. I agree with you that Daniels is boring, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing when running against Obama. Boring can also be construed as serious or mature, and those could work in Daniels’ favor. As for his marriage, I think at this point the tolerance for marital idiosyncrasies is fairly high given what Bill Clinton did. The fact that his wife left him and then ended up coming back and remarrying him will have to be addressed, but in no way would I see that becoming a disqualifier. I think Daniels already has a pretty good one-liner he’s used in response to questions about his marriage, actually: “If you like happy endings, you'll love our story.” I don’t understand why his anti-union stance is a negative given that it will likely appeal to GOP voters in the primaries and caucuses. As for the general election, let’s be honest, the unions wouldn’t vote for any Republican anyway, so there’s no loss there. I think that if Daniels explains his position in a logical and dispassionate manner, the issue can actually end up being beneficial for him with that crucial “center third of voters” you rightly mentioned. Further, the more serene and serious approach he’s taken on that issue (particularly when contrasted to the way Scott Walker handled things in Wisconsin) again makes him seem like the “adult” in this debate. As for your fourth point about his “truce” on social issues and subsequent defunding of Planned Parenthood, I again disagree. Daniels has never pretended to be anything other than anti-abortion, and so in that sense, what he’s doing is consistent with a long-held position. As for the proposed “truce” on social issues, I think many would welcome that, and declaring a truce doesn’t mean that the business of running his state must cease – even when that business entails something like defunding Planned Parenthood which has obvious social connotations. Had he trumpeted the defunding and sought a great deal of attention for it, I’d agree, but he didn’t, and so here again, the very deliberate and judicial way he has handled the issue go a long way towards blunting the potential controversy. I respectfully disagree with you that Christie is only a star because he’s local. His appeal is broader than I think you’re appreciating. I hear about him from Alabama, and I hear about him from California, I hear about him from long-time Republicans, and I hear about him from moderates and independents. Second, and similar to Daniels, I just don’t concur with you that an anti-union stance is a net negative. Do you think the left wouldn’t already be galvanized against any GOP candidate next year? Lastly, your point about Palin is an excellent one. I was frankly unaware of Alaska’s deficits, and had she still been in office to preside over that, it would have undercut what had been one of her biggest perceived strengths. I stand corrected on that one and appreciate your pointing it out. Thanks again for the comment – feel free to chime in again if you’d like!

    Responses to this comment
  • Thanks. The reason I mention unions and Planned Parenthood is because polling among the "middle third" suggests Dems have been winning these two arguments. Likewise, the middle third tends to sway with the percieved winners of such debates. I think it was Nate Silver who wrote a piece on the middle third and unions about a month or two ago. Also, abortion rights have always been supported by the middle even if they don't like abortion for themselves. I bet the Dems will hammer Daniels on his flip-flop on social issues if he becomes a threat. We all know how the middle feels about flip-floppers. As for Christie, I agree he is polling well now but most of the country knows little if anything about him except that conservatives love him. Once people become more aware of his actual positions and manner, he may come off as fat and crass. Two traits that do well in local politics but don't seem very presidential. As for Daniels name recognition, although I don't doubt your feedback, I personally don't know too many people who know him. In fact, he reminds me a bit of Clinton during the primary. Granted Clinton eventually won but that was primarily due to a third party candidate that I don't think will be a factor in the next election. Mind you, I don't dislike Daniels at all. I just find him a bit flat. I agree that Daniels comes off as the adult in a room filled with republicans, but, does Obama really come off as any different? I may not like his policies, but he does come off as calm and thoughtful so I don't see Daniels demeanor to be a plus against Obama. P.S. I really appreciate the tone of your comments. I wish more writers here would take the polite and educated approach you have in dissecting my comments. I must say that you have raised some good points that I need to reflect more upon.

    Responses to this comment
  • Texan, "flat" does better than "rock star" if unemployment sticks at around 9 percent. That's fairly harsh, saying that Daniels is more boring than Pawlenty: maybe so, but Pawlenty's current pandering to the Religious Right is unseemly. Indiana has a surplus on Daniel's watch, which is a pretty strong credential. I think his biggest drawback, politically, is he was in the Bush Administration for a couple of years. For a lot of centrists, that's poison.

    Responses to this comment
  • I don't disagree that Daniels is a good candidate. What I question is his electability. How many bald presidents have been elected in the last 40 years? What about Daniels personality is captivating i.e. is he a good speaker? Does he have an interesting life story? What makes him one of us the electorate or what traits does he possess that we wish we had? I don't mean to suggest these are important issues, just ones that the majority of Americans vote on. If the electorate made wise choices neither Clinton nor Bush would have been president. As for unemployment, if the current trend continues, at election time unemployment will be just below 8%. Yes, that is a tough sell for a sitting president but is it tough enough to overide the huge advantage sitting presidents have for reelection? Without a charismatic contender who can get past the primaries, I'm guessing no.

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment