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Douthat: ‘Balding, wonky Midwesterner’ Mitch Daniels could be GOP presidential contender

March 2, 2010

Ross Douthat with the New York Times on Sunday offered the opinion that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels might fit the mold of a good Republican candidate for president, but not likely the vision.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels feeds his ballot into a counting machine as he casts his vote at St. Thomas Aquinas School Tuesday, November, 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Indianapolis Star, Steve Healey)

Douthat notes that the accomplishments Daniels have seen in his years heading Indiana are impressive, even if the 5’7″ governor’s physical stature is not.

From Douthat’s Sunday column

“I’ve never seen a president of the United States when I look in the mirror,” Daniels remarked last week, after officially inching the door ajar for 2012. You can’t blame him: At 5’7”, the Indiana governor wouldn’t be the tallest man to occupy the White House, and he’d be the baldest president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. If Romney looks like central casting’s idea of a chief executive, Daniels resembles the character actor who plays the director of the Office of Management and Budget — a title that he held, as it happens, during George W. Bush’s first term.

Douthat argues that Daniels has the credentials to make a good run for the Republican nomination, and offers ideas rather than just blanket criticisms. It seems so many are trying to woo the Tea Party folks, but few are offering ideas about what to do next. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin certainly knows how to play the crowd, but that doesn’t include setting out her plans for how to right the country’s finances.

As Douthat notes –

And unlike both CPAC-goers and his party’s leadership, Daniels was blunt about the challenges of deficit reduction. “There’s been some very healthy hell-raising going on in the country,” he said of the Tea Parties. “But to my knowledge, nobody’s gotten up in front of those rallies and explained what’s going to have to happen.” His ideal approach to the deficit would look like Paul Ryan’s fiscal roadmap, all spending restraint and no new taxes. But one way or another, deficit reduction “has to be done” — even if “you have to take the second- or third-best method.”

Daniels would make for an interesting candidate to watch, even if some, including Douthat, get hung up on his looks –

For a Daniels candidacy to catch fire, what’s left of the Republican establishment, currently (if reluctantly) coalescing around Mitt Romney, would have to decide that he’s the better pick. That would mean gambling that the best way to defeat the most charismatic president of modern times is to nominate a balding, wonky Midwesterner who reminds voters of their accountant.

Stranger things have happened.

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