Erin McPike, "The Campaign Waiting For Mitch Daniels". April 29
EARLIER this week Jon Stewart "refuted" the notion of Donald Trump, Republican Front-Runner, by pointing out the leader board at this time four years ago.
It's an easy laugh, assuming you don't mind cultivating an audience blissfully unaware of its surroundings; couldn't you name "Rudy" and "Hillary" without looking? If the point was that front runners ten months out do not necessarily get the nomination, well, thanks. If the point was Donald Trump is unlikely to be the Republican nominee for President in 2012, much obliged. If the point was the porn-mustache humor of referencing the campaigns of Giuiliani and Clinton née Rodham, well, anachronism packs 'em in on Saturday night, if you can land Will Farrell. That it comes about 35 years too late for me is my own fault.
Instead the point was that The Media, in the form of the cable news-o-tainment babblers, was making too much of The Trump. Which, no doubt, they are, but it doesn't really follow; "Trump Leads Republican Field" is a lot bigger story than "Name Recognition Looks Good For '08". Donald Fuking Buffoon Trump is leading the Republican Presidential Polls. That is news. The fact that The "News" no longer remembers how to cover news is incidental.
And, yeah, The Trump is a tiresome self-promoter hawking transparent flummery for an easily satisfied audience. And this differs from Mitch Daniels how? Daniels has 24% more of what passes for subtlety in this culture, which is not a credit to Daniels, just the utter shame of the rest of us. He's the North Greenway Olde Towne Shoppes, while Trump's the Exit 47 Outlet Mall. They're selling the same execrable shit, but Daniels has the better labels.
Anyway, The Big Brain's Big Announcement is due any minute, now that the Indiana General Assembly is going to pack up its official session so it can break down into permanent committees and travel around the state mugging people and institutions de facto and ex officio. And I have absolutely no idea what he's going to do. In the first place, I think he's already been running since 2007, so we're just asking if he'll make it official, or, rather, when he'll withdraw, now or later. All the little signs here point to Yes--he's even made The Lovely Cheri come out in public, and that had to cost him something. On the other hand, doing no campaigning and expecting Iowans to refrain from killing you resides somewhere at the outer limits of even Mitch's smirky Ego. It's not as easy to fool a bunch of pig-ignernt farmhands and pastor's wives as it is Beltway insiders.
So it's nice to see McPike's piece, with a recitation of the Big Muscle that is Team Daniels, even if it might've been made shorter by saying "Distilled Essence of Bush/Cheney Privateers". It's interesting to see what sort of thing wows your average Beltway punditaster (we're not accusing McPike, who seems to avoid drooling for the duration). But:
More than anything, it could set up an epic four-way showdown in New Hampshire between Romney, Huntsman, Daniels and Tim Pawlenty, and shift the focus squarely onto that state.
Really? If that winds up being the choice in New Hampshire, how long before the starved carnivores of the base are screaming for the 2011 version of Fred Dumbo Thompson? Daniels might run; running, his Money Boys may very well engineer that sort of Dullness Parade after Iowa, and even emerge from it, but it won't fucking last. This has always been the Daniels Dilemma. He can make all the jockey jokes and combover cracks he wants, and wow the Insiders, but where does he go from there? Daniels entire campaign so far has been predicated on staying away from the howling vacuity at the center of the Republican galaxy; where does he go if he gets there? If there's some reason why the Republican choice should be Mitch Daniels, as opposed to it being anyone else, it's not his economic program. And that's all the man has. He was being touted in 2009 because a) he'd managed to win as a Republican in 2008; and b) Republicans with double-digit IQs were sneering at Sarah Palin. It fit right in with the bullshit record he'd crafted, but now it's everybody's message. Just as Haley Barbour's racist gaffes were counterproductive when the whole Republican campaign will be propped up on racism, and thus require some form of beard, so Daniels, as of now, can't run as the refreshingly competent Ayn Rand nerd when that's nearly everyone in the race.
Ed Kilgore makes the case, a lot more succinctly than I ever will (there's a shocker!). Daniels pulled that "social issue truce" bit when that looked like a brave and canny act; now it makes him a target without Target of Right Wing Mouth Breathers conferring any benefit. He's managed to stay under the national radar while slashing-and-burning collective bargaining, education, and social services, but that tide has begun running the other way, and what you get away with in Indiana is not exactly what gulls 'em on the Coasts. Sooner or later (I keep telling myself) somebody's gonna start looking hard at that polished turd of a record of his as governor, and then what's he going to run on?
And, for the life of me, I can't figure out why he wants to be President. Seems like you can loot something more effectively without a spotlight shining on you every hour of every day. There doesn't seem to be any there there. He's more like a Randian hero than a Randian. Pure cardboard. Maybe it's because we in Indiana got to watch him in action in those early months, before those Republican insider money boys wised up and kept him and that enormous chip on his shoulder away from the Great Unwashed. I really have no idea why Mitch Daniels would run for President besides Money or Ego. Or Petulance. But I suspect that uses up his list of motivations anyway.