The fact that we’re seeing mainstream media profiles talking up Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as a 2012 presidential possibility — indeed, someone who can “save the GOP” — should make some jittery Republicans rethink what it will take for the party to recover. Daniels didn’t govern as “Democrat lite.” He didn’t take a series of poll-tested positions designed to appeal to voters. In fact, his budget-cutting was often deeply unpopular. But he was nevertheless willing to take some political risks and see them through to fruition.
Daniels was nevertheless re-elected at the same time Barack Obama was carrying Indiana in the last presidential election. He isn’t perfect — the Cato Institute’s annual report card gives him a B for 2008 — but his approach is pretty much the opposite of the crowd-pleasing, risk-averse strategy some counsel in response to Obama’s popularity. And the way Republicans in Washington for the most part governed after the late 1990s. After Newt Gingrich was rebuffed over the government shutdown, Republicans were afraid to take too many risks lest they lose power. But the end result was they ultimately lost power anyway and don’t have much to show for the brief moment when they had unified control of the federal government.
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