Posted by on April 01, 2011 in Blog

With no leading Republican yet officially declared for president and only two exploration committees formed, the 2012 field remains wide open.  However, as one surveys the list of potential candidates, one sticks out for a very simple reason. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in contrast to most if not all of his compatriots, has kept his rhetoric on an even keel. He hasn’t pandered to or sought out the political benefits of engaging in the hyper-partisan arena of campaign politics.

Daniels has separated himself from the emerging GOP field by avoiding the traditional politics of pandering to the party’s base and has instead come off as more presidential. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, has led the cast of GOP presidential hopefuls branding themselves as the anti-Obama option for 2012.  

For instance, Gingrich claimed that the "secular socialist people around Obama" lack understanding of the country and labeled Obama as the “spectator-in-chief” that “maybe the most passive and out-of-touch presidency in modern American history.” Michele Bachmann has followed suit by claiming, during her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), that Obama has "ushered in socialism" as President.

The pandering is not limited to partisan issues, but in some cases (not only among Republicans) has become increasingly bigoted. Most recently, some prospective candidates have been engaging in a crass effort to take advantage of the equally ill-conceived fear surrounding what is being called “Shariah creep” (an imaginary ploy allegedly by Muslims to gradually supplant the Constitution with Islamic law). For example, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has shut down a Minnesota banking program which allows potential homeowners’ mortgages to be in compliance with basic tenets of Islamic law, despite the program’s initial driving force being Pawlenty’s own push to increase minority home ownership. “Sharia Law” was the deciding factor cited by Pawlenty’s spokesperson as an explanation for shutting down the program.

In contrast, Daniels has refused to descend into this type of bigoted pandering, and has instead offered an unconventional, sobering approach with a heavy focus on the chief fiscal issues facing the country. Daniels highlighted and conveyed these issues in his recent CPAC speech, which was praised by many, including David Brooks of the New York Times, who declared it “one of the best Republican speeches in recent decades,” generating further interest for a 2012 run by Daniels. Additionally, Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader and tea party leader made news with a statement that endorsed Daniels’ neutral style and provided surprising "tea party cred."

However, if Daniels decides to run, the question would be whether he can maintain and meet the benchmarks set in his CPAC speech, or if he will feel compelled to turn to the pandering of the party’s base in order to be competitive in the primaries.