Governor and Mitch Daniels and Federal Government and Opinion and Barack Obama and Elections and Politics and Government and Government Reform

President Daniels? Never say never

April 20, 2009


Commentary President Daniels? Never say never

People are talking. Not only in Indiana but around the nation, people are talking about Mitch Daniels—and why not?

In his weekly column for Forbes.com, Reihan Salam wrote last November after the election in regard to the resurrection of the Republican Party, "The right man for the job is Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana." Salam opened his article with the rhetorical question, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who understood that throwing good money after bad is a losing strategy?"

Salam cited Daniels' skill in managing Indiana's budget in the black despite the downturn. Salam also noted that Daniels won re-election in Indiana with the help of thousands of voters who also voted for Barack Obama. He concluded that, although it is too early to know what the world will look like in 2012, a common-sense conservative like Daniels—an experienced executive with a record of turning dysfunctional governments around—would be the perfect match for Obama.

Salam woke up to something Hoosiers already know. In this column (March 3, 2003), in a discussion of probable candidates for governor of Indiana in 2004, I suggested we needed someone with some business savvy—someone like Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, and posited that the closest candidate to the Bloomberg model was non-candidate (at the time) Mitch Daniels.

I cited Daniels' valuable experience as a senior vice president at Eli Lilly and Co. and as director of the Office of Management and Budget for President Bush. I concluded: "We need to elect someone who can make dollars and 'sense' out of Indiana's financial woes. We need a bright, confident, innovative businessman in the governor's mansion who is unfettered by political restraints. Bloomberg's busy. Mitch, are you interested?"

Mitch was interested and shortly thereafter announced his candidacy. He has made government in Indiana fiscally responsible even as our neighboring states struggle.

Ohio and Illinois face multibillion-dollar deficits. Illinois, which is borrowing billions just to pay its bills, is facing a massive tax increase. And Michigan faces large deficits despite having raised taxes more than $1 billion. As the four states bordering Indiana make drastic cuts to services, Indiana maintains reserves in excess of $1 billion. It is no wonder Indiana is one of only 11 states with a AAA rating from Standard and Poor's.

Although we might not feel it, Indiana is an island of relative prosperity in the Midwest. Today, Daniels stands between the taxpayers and a spendthrift Legislature.

People are talking. In "The Fix," a political blog on WashingtonPost.com, Chris Cillizza in a Nov. 24 article titled, "The Friday Line: Ten Republicans to Watch," ranked our governor fourth. Cillizza was impressed by Daniels' re-election margin of 18 points and said that, whether or not Daniels runs for president, he would be a viable commodity for Republicans in the coming years. It is worthy of note that also-rans Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee did not even make Cillizza's top 10.

Daniels would make a remarkable president. Governor/ president—it's the same game, just a different scale. It is no wonder that most of our recent presidents have come from the governor's mansion. I supported Obama, but I'm increasingly concerned about the sacrifice of capitalism on the altar of bailout mentality. It would be nice to effect a recovery in this country without dooming the business community to terminal government intervention. I would welcome a fiscally responsible Republican who has not used his religious beliefs to form the focal point of a political agenda.

Would Daniels run? You probably heard our governor say on more than one occasion that he would never run for another office. In the political vernacular, is that fact still operative? I plan to ask him that question April 22 at the next installment of Mickey's Corner, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center. You're invited. The interview will also air later on WXIN-TV Channel 59. We'll find out together whether Indiana has an opportunity to elevate a remarkable leader to the world stage.
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Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Media Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.com.

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