A Daniels presidential strategy

February 26, 2010
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Speculation that Gov. Mitch Daniels will run for president has picked up a few notches since he complained to Washington reporters a few days ago that potential Republican candidates were majoring in the minors, that they weren’t talking about critical issues like oil imports and the national debt.

However, if Daniels were to run for president, how should he do it? As an unconventional politician, he’s quick with a quip—and a barb—and isn’t exactly Hollywood glitterati.

Ice Miller attorney, lobbyist and long-time Republican fundraiser John Hammond thinks Daniels would need to run an unusual campaign that fits his style and also would get him noticed in what looks to be a crowded field.

Hammond, who thinks the odds of the governor running are better than 50-50, says Daniels should stay away from big gatherings like tea party conventions. He also shouldn’t start out traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire.

“I would avoid pure partisan activity at the moment,” he says. “It means you’re just like everyone else, competing in the same space. You need to distinguish yourself.”

Daniels should lay a foundation by talking to lots of opinion-shapers in quarters as diverse as education, media and infrastructure, Hammond continues. Explain to them how he’d handle the debt and trade deficit, how he’d fight terrorists.

Only after building deep grassroots support with influential people should Daniels trek to the early states and build recognition with voters; at this point Daniels would bet on the grassroots people showing up and talking up his candidacy.

What about running in an era when television is the only exposure to candidates most voters get? Hammond thinks voters will crave a candidate who, in his opinion, is more substance than glitz.

“The electorate is pretty intelligent. They make the right choices for the country. You gotta count on that,” Hammond says. “They’ll be searching for someone who can solve some of the biggest issues, and some of their fears.”

That’s Hammond’s take; what’s yours?

Should Daniels opt in?

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