I’ve come to the conclusion that Republicans who are sincerely calling for Mitch Daniels to enter the race–not the ones who wish he had, the ones who want him to do so now–actually want to kill off their party’s chances in 2012. The deep and not entirely known flaws of a Daniels run, in my opinion, dwarf those of Romney’s bid. Any thinking person would come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a bad idea for Republicans, and while that description doesn’t include Bill Kristol, I would think Jay Cost (via Daniel Larison) is more rational than this:

While [Daniels] could not win an outright majority of delegates because of the passing of too many filing deadlines, he could do what Bobby Kennedy attempted in 1968: get in late, do well in the latter contests, win some big states, and make the case that, early primaries aside, he is the true choice of the party, the one who could unify everybody around a common cause. If nobody has won a majority of delegates by June, that could very well be enough for a dark horse victory for Daniels.

I actually disagree with Larison that Daniels is well-positioned to make the case for deficit cutting/entitlement reform. Yeah, Daniels doesn’t have Swiss accounts and Cayman Island shelters to drag him down, but on the other hand Obama would be able to dismiss his rhetoric out of hand by pointing to the inconvenient fact that Daniels was the budget chief who okayed both rounds of the Bush Tax Cuts and the Iraq War, not to mention Medicare Part D. These are four big holes punched through the deficit on Daniels’s watch, making him one of the key architects of our deficit. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has not raised the federal deficit by a single cent. Shifting from making Romney into the bad guy of the past ten years to making Daniels the bad guy of the past ten years would be easy, because it’s right there in the public record. And that alone should be enough.

It’s also entirely nuts to nominate a top Bush Administration economic official for president in an environment where the majority still blames the bad economy on George W. Bush, where the president intends to run for another term on not returning to old, unpopular Bush policies (that Daniels helped implement). Blaming Daniels solely for these policies is demagogic, but it’s not as though he resigned in protest over them, or even disowned them afterward.

What’s more, it’s even nuttier when you think about the inevitable results of doing this:

  1. A successful Daniels candidacy would ensure a deadlocked convention. That’s the definition of success in this case, which should be a first clue. It’s unlikely that anything in the universe would be able to make Paul, Gingrich or Romney drop out ahead of time, the latter two especially if they even have a chance of winning. Such a convention hasn’t happened since primaries became de rigeur, and having one would bring about, as Larison puts it, “…disaffection of the voting base that feels that its choice has been hijacked.” Which, great timing for that, two months before the election.
  2. A Daniels nomination, were it accepted, would mean elevating a candidate who hasn’t been vetted and might have embarrassing surprises in his closet.
  3. Daniels has no experience on the national stage, and could well have a Rick Perry-style cultureshock in such a different arena.
  4. Daniels is a far less effective communicator than Romney, and a far less dynamic presence in general. My guess is that Obama would run circles around him in debates. And I don’t subscribe to the “hip to be square” concept either.

Really, anyone who knows all this and signs up for it anyway is either suicidal or a fool. Just ask Democrats: in 2004 we didn’t fall in love with John Kerry, but we voted for him anyway. We didn’t spend months on end panicking and wondering if we could somehow induce Gary Locke to hop in and derail the whole thing.

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