The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported Friday morning that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has a name recognition problem. Washington Editor Brian Francisco writes that “Gov. Mitch Daniels fared poorly – or invisibly – in three recent polls asking Republican voters their preferences for a presidential nominee in 2012.”
This is despite Daniels’ best efforts to prove himself a member of the ever-popular he-man woman hater’s club. It’s all about being hard-core these days for conservative candidates; you have to prove you’re not only as crazy as the next guy, but that you’re willing to take that extra step and hurl yourself into the abyss of insanity.
I would suggest here that one of Daniels’ problems is that he has been more moderate than some of his extremist colleagues and making up for lost time in a hurry may or may not be sufficient. It’s almost as though having been eviscerated for being too nice to the Democrats who fled the state (he didn’t do what many Republicans wanted and either arrest or shoot them), he’s decided to take it out on Hoosier women to show America that this fiscal hawk has the required ruthless streak.
Because the Republican base has already made it central to their platform that God has ordained that Republicans rule America, Daniels will likely rue saying that the Democrat minority has the right to express its views as this is not a view held by either Tea Party extremists or fundamentalists.
(Of course there is the growing evidence that the Tea Party is not so popular with Americans anymore, a USA Today/Gallup poll showing that 47 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view the Tea Party movement while only 33 percent hold a favorable view. What gets you past the primaries might kill you on Election Day).
And recent extremist behavior aside, Daniels is a fiscal conservative, as his record shows. As Newsweek reports,
After five years in the statehouse, admirers point out, Daniels has managed to lower property taxes by an average of 30 percent; transform a $200 million budget deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus; and insure 45,000 low-income Hoosiers through a budget-neutral combination of health savings accounts and catastrophic coverage. His approval ratings routinely top 65 percent.
He is not alone, obviously because fiscal conservatism is not enough; it could be argued that it’s not really all that important. Look at who fills the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, and many governor slots since 2010. As for displays of extremism, other Republicans are doing much the same thing, including Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, among others. It’s not an easy spot to occupy: you have to be loved not only by Tea Partiers but also by Christian fundamentalists and theocrats – the economically-confused-libertarian Republicans and the Christofascist fringe.
Daniels is expected to announce, Francisco tells us “in the coming days or weeks…whether he will run for president.”
Shaming Indiana before the entire nation by signing onto a dishonest anti-women’s reproductive rights bill (HEA 1210) that not only gives the state ownership of a woman’s uterus but also forces doctors to lie to them about non-existent cancer risks, ought to give him at least a brief spell of notoriety. Shedding the mask of moderation is a helpful start to any Republican presidential wannabe.
Daniels polls 4% in an IBOPE Zogby national poll of 1400 Republican voters but the news is not all bad: only 14 percent said they’d never vote for him compared with 50% who said they’d never vote for Trump. Another poll was less promising: Public Policy Voting presented a list of Republican candidates to 610 Republicans, a list that did not include Daniels, and the 2012 Iowa Report had Daniels listed 11th out of 12 candidates.
Mitch Daniels might want to consider sticking to hating women at home. There are plenty of better known candidates in the he-man woman hater’s club for Republican haters to choose from. Daniels’ problems are compounded by the Republican-libertarian-fringer Ron Paul’s announcement Friday that he was going to run for the Republican nomination (for the third time) with the questionable claim “Time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I’ve been saying for 30 years. So, I think the time is right.”
Given the scrutiny candidates face today with regards their personal lives, Daniels must also be prepared for discussions of his marriage. As ABC News tells us,
The couple’s history is complicated. After 15 years of marriage, Cheri Daniels left her husband and their four young daughters for another man in 1993. Three years later, she came back, the family reunited and the two remarried in 1997. It is a chapter the couple rarely discuss publicly.
Obviously, they have some catching up to do if they’re going to be compared to Newt Gingrich’s lively personal life, but even so, this is not exactly the stuff of a family values platform, fidelity and a sound home life always a point of attack for conservatives.
Despite being called “America’s best governor,” by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat In February, it is unlikely the Indiana governor can make meaningful headway in an already overcrowded field.
Still, Republicans have shown themselves capable of almost limitless self-deception. From a common-sense point of view it’s almost amusing to hear conservatives like Reihan Salam say things like this: “I can’t help but think that a common-sense conservative like Daniels would be the perfect match for Obama.”
What’s common sense about lying to women about non-existent cancer risks, or assigning ownership of their uteri to the state? Is that what passes for common sense in the GOP today? Newsweek might praise Daniels for his approach to government:
Daniels’s decision to “conduct government like a business” has one major virtue: it forces him to rely on results instead of ideology.
But it was not “results” that drove the decision to deprive women of the ownership of their uteri in Indiana, or which forced doctors to lie to their patients: it was ideology, and Daniels has shown he is no more immune to the pull of ideology than any other Republican hopeful. The most insurmountable problem for Daniels is that in 2011 (and likely more so in 2012) extremism sells (to Republicans at least – 60 percent of them still support the Tea Party) and there are already a good dozen Republicans out there wanting to be president who are as or more extreme than the little known he-man woman hater Mitch Daniels.