Riding the Bush Bandwagon - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Riding the Bush Bandwagon

A year ago, White House budget director Mitch Daniels seemed like a dream GOP candidate for the Indiana governor’s race in 2004: a native son with business and political successes under his belt. But as reported in the Prowler (click here and here), Daniels had been hedging on returning home for politics. And with the successes in the 2002 election cycle, any number of prospective Republicans are making noises about wanting to be part of a Bush Bandwagon in 2004. No reason why Daniels, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, shouldn’t want to either.

Daniels was viewed by many in Indiana and in Washington as the natural candidate to run for governor. “It was just assumed that he’d be going home,” says a Washington lobbyist who is a Daniels backer. “His family is back there, he still commutes back and forth.”

But Daniels made clear in several interviews and in private conversations with White House staff that he isn’t sure he can — or wants to — remove himself from what has become a challenging job of waging budget battles.

“He walked into a mess, and he’d like to see it through,” says the lobbyist. “The state party is pressuring him for an answer and it’s just not the right time.”

That Daniels is interested in staying on has surprised a number of people, many of whom didn’t think the former Eli Lilly executive was up to the task at OMB. A better time to leave would probably be six months to a year from now. By then, fiscal analysts believe the economy will more clearly be in growth mode, and Daniels can perhaps walk away knowing the budget-balancing mess will be on its way, too, toward being repaired.

But back home in Indiana, the state party is anxious to get Daniels on board, and is asking White House political guru Karl Rove to impress upon Daniels the need to step up and run. That wouldn’t make things in the White House any easier, but it would make the state party’s life easier, because it could then say no to former Rep. David McIntosh. He ran for governor in 2000 and was buried by more than 15 percentage points, and it’s not clear that he’s done anything that would narrow that gap in a 2004 repeat. Even McIntosh seems to realize he’s not wanted. According to U.S. News and World Report, he has told party officials that he won’t get a campaign up and running until after Daniels has made a decision on his own future.

Don’t look for former Rep. John Thune to make too much hay should the Senate election in South Dakota not go his way. Thune and Republican National Committee political staffers are already eyeing the 2004 Senate race for Thune. The outgoing House member was favored early in his Senate race against Democrat Tim Johnson and many believe he lost due to, at the very least, unethical get-out-the-vote practices by Democrats and, at the most, illegal voter registration activity.

“He was a rising star in the party before the Senate campaign, and he’s still a star,” says an RNC staffer. “We’re committed to getting him back to Washington in a high profile position.” And what better position than the currently held by Sen. Tom Daschle? Capitol Hill insiders believe that regardless of whether the current Senate Majority Leader makes a run for the presidency, this will probably be his last term on the Hill.

Democratic mudslinger James Carville has more money than he knows what to do with. And just to prove how little he knows, he’s said by Hollywood insiders to have tentatively agreed to serve as executive producer for a remake of the 1949 film All the King’s Men, based on the Robert Penn Warren’s famous novel. Columbia Pictures is slated to pay most of the bills, but generally producers of films either put up money or have some other financial stake in the said picture. Other times a producer or associate producer credit is handed out to actors or actors’ business or talent managers as a way of gaining a big name for a film.

In the case of Carville, though, his expertise probably is needed for other reasons. After all, All the King’s Men is a fictional account of the rise and fall of a colorful backwoods governor and abuser of power loosely modeled on Louisiana governor and U.S. Senator Huey Long. No word yet if Louisianan Carville will have a speaking part. Or if his friend Bill Clinton will get a crack at the casting couch.

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