Michael Barone has an interesting if shallow piece about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels as a GOP presidential contender for 2012. I firmly believe that Daniels is the only Republican who could plausibly beat Obama. While the casual observer might consider Obama eminently beatable at the moment, incumbency is a powerful advantage and being unpopular doesn't matter as much if the opposition can't field a good candidate (see 2004). Daniels' great political asset, the one that places him head and shoulders above the sad Republican pack, is the fact that he looks and sounds like a normal human being. He always, and I mean always, sounds like he knows what he's talking about. He sounds like he went to college and might even read books in his leisure time. The same can probably be said about Mitt Romney, but unlike Daniels he comes off as fake, plastic, and insincere. Whether he has learned it through diligent practice or was lucky enough to be born with the skill, Daniels has that widely coveted ability to look and sound natural, like a Normal Guy.

Because most voters make a superficial investment in electoral politics at best, these traits make Daniels extremely popular in Indiana even as Obama won the state in 2008. Democrats and Independents, at least the kind who don't bother learning anything about a candidate's record, are easily won over by Daniels' earnest, not-too-folksy Straight Talk. Think of a younger version of John McCain (circa 2002, not the embarrassing thing we saw in 2008) with better camera skills and more money.

Though Daniels could conceivably beat Obama, Barone glosses over the obvious fact that he probably can't win a Republican primary. Teabaggers, Glenn Beck fans, Evangelicals, neocons, and the various other inmates in the GOP asylum will tear this guy to pieces. Despite being substantially conservative on both fiscal and social issues (he famously promised to shut down Planned Parenthood in his 2004 gubernatorial campaign, although he may have been lying to win over some Dobsonites) any internet item about Daniels is immediately filled with wingnuts declaring him a "RINO." His laid back, friendly doctor persona lacks the kind of WWF-style theatrics that play well with the GOP base. And for the kind of urban, college educated Republican who actually cares about issues (I know, there aren't many) Daniels may have a hard time living down some of his dubious decisions as Governor. I'm referring primarily to his deal to sell off Indiana toll roads to a Spanish corporation. The state netted $2 billion in cash for a 100 year lease, and toll revenues over that 100 years are projected at $80 billion. This is the exact same logic as taking out a payday loan. "I don't care if I have to pay back $3000 eventually – I get $500 right now!" More than one primary opponent will ask if that's the way Daniels approaches problem-solving.

2010 is going to be a good year for the GOP, but it is a harbinger of some very turbulent times in the party's near future. As Tea Party affiliated GOP strategist Richard Viguerie said recently, "We’re all on the same page until the polls close Nov. 2. (After that) a massive, almost historic battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party begins." Pat Buchanan has also forecast a pitched battle for ideological dominance in the party. Teabaggers, emboldened by what they will perceive as a mandate in 2010, will demand that the entire party hop into their Crazymobile and mash the gas pedal to the floor. Fundies will try in vain to refocus the agenda to include their pet social issues. Neocons won't give an inch on the ridiculously expensive wars in the Middle East and the overseas American military empire in general. And the moderate quasi-libertarian faction will wonder why the party they knew is now composed mostly of people who are so obviously fucking insane.

With the great Democratic victories in 2006/2008 came the unhappy realization that they would have to attempt to govern their way out of a mess of epic proportions. Similarly, the GOP will celebrate its 2010 gains only until the realization sets in that no one has any idea which one of the five different claimants to the title of Leader of the Conservative Movement is in charge. Sometimes, as one party has discovered and the other will shortly, the worst thing is getting exactly what you ask for.

27 thoughts on “ROYAL RUMBLE”

  • Selling off the toll roads is up there on my all-time retarded privatization schemes. Citizens get lower tax revenues and toll/upkeep calculations driven by shareholder demands, and in return they get…uh, nothing. If only we could have gotten "Mitch the Bitch" to catch on.

  • They will unify around the theme of The Democrats Are The Fucking Devil and spend 98% of the next two years investigating the crap out of Obama. The incompatibility of their overlapping governing agendas don't matter because most of the GOP doesn't care about governing or policy, anyway – just about being aggrieved and making those smug hippies cry. The rich will get their taxcuts, broken unions, privatized social security, and deregulation, the neocons will get their middle east sabre rattling, the teabaggers will get a bunch of flattering noise, and all will agree that Nancy Pelosi is history's greatest monster. When things go even further to hell, they'll reach into their well-worn bag of tricks and bring forward a raft of spending cuts, shuttering of government regulatory agencies, and doing away with the capital gains tax; all factions of the party will cheer in unison. And when that fails to work, they'll blame it on illegal aliens. Or gays. Or rap music. Or whatever.

    I keep waiting for the inherent contradictions in the GOP coalition to finally manifest themselves, but I'm beginning to suspect they never will.

  • Daniels will never make it out of the primaries, Palin, Romney, and whoever else will criticize him for accepting stimulus money. I personally don't want to see my governor in the whitehouse, hes already pushing for a local government/school fucking constitutional amendment capping property taxes. I dont know why i ever thought he was a good governor, yeah he might have balanced the budget(with some federal money) but he did it via "tough decisions" like cutting school/library and other social services.

    Oh and hes raised some taxes like sales, nope never getting out of the Rep. primaries.

  • FMGuru: I read something on People's World today about how we're in for "two years of debate about Michelle Obama's wardrobe".

  • Entomologista says:

    If Indiana's toll roads are owned by Spaniards, Illinois toll roads must be owned by drunken, retarded Polaks.

  • You forgot the batshit-insane hardcore libertarian faction of the party, which will presumably be all in favor of economically stupid privatization schemes.

    I just don't see the Republican party coalition collapsing on itself any time before they get the White House. So long as the party doesn't have to actually do anything, they can all join hands and condemn whatever Obama or congressional Democrats happen to be pushing for. Kneejerk obstructionism just doesn't require much consensus, so it won't matter that they don't have one until the Republican party is officially in power. When that does happen, eventually we'll get a replay of the end of the Bush administration: we'll start to see some rifts open where different factions of the Republican base have some serious disagreements, and that'll be compounded by complaining about who's issues get the most attention–do they cut taxes first, or ban gay abortion? Make an example out of a couple especially corrupt bankers to appease the psudo-populist crowd (and thereby shift the blame from systemic failure to individual corruption), or protect business at all cost?

    Sure, the teabagger movement is incoherent and fraught with infighting. But unfortunately for the rest of us, so long as they don't care, we can't sit back and watch the Republican party blow itself up.

  • Sorry, Mitch Daniels is a Not-So-Sekrit Mooslim:

    Daniels moved to Indiana from Pennsylvania in 1959 while still in grade school. His paternal grandparents were Syrian immigrants,[6] and Daniels has been honored by the Arab-American Institute for his work in the community.[7][8][9]

    From wikipedia

  • stolen from brad delong on why daniels won't win a thing:

    And page 296: The Commerce Secretary echoed much of what had been said…. As usual, not a real discussion, O'Neill thought as he looked over at [Mitch] Daniels…. He knew Daniels was focused on the perils of rising deficits, but it would take gumption to air those concerns in a room full of tax cut ideologues. "I think we need to balance concerns," Daniels said…. "You need to be out front on the economy, but I am concerned that this package may not do it. The budget hole is getting deeper… we are projecting deficits all the way to the end of your second term." From across the table came glares from the entire Bush political team. Daniels paused…. "Ummmm. On balance, then, I think we need to do a [tax cut] package… accelerate the rate cuts and the double taxation of dividends…" O'Neill looked with astonishment at Daniels… turn 180 degrees in midsentence…

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    I think FMguru and Radical Scientist said it best. Ed is being to optimistic (or we're being too pessimistic) The GOP/TEA party is exceptionally good and demonizing anything that isn't Beck/Limbaugh approved. So long as they can rally against their demons (which will always exist, either real or imagined), they'll remain unified.

  • Monkey Business says:

    I don't think Daniels could beat Obama. Too many of his decisions as governor would bite him in the ass in both a Republican primary and a general election. The man isn't a RINO, he's an opportunist.

    The GOP base is so fractured that I'm not sure that anyone that emerges out of that mess would be electable. You'd end up with a candidate with indefensible positions on just about everything.

    I see the GOP field looking something like this: Gingrich, Romney, Palin, Daniels. Out of that mess, I see Gingrich, who will get his ass handed to him in the general election.

  • I've said it before, but the guy to keep an eye on is Jeb Bush. He's still pretty popular in Florida, has an Hispanic wife and has been out of office for almost the last 4 years so the stink of the financial crisis isn't on him.

    If they've done anything, I think the Tea Baggers have rehabilitated the Bush name. Right now, they associate W with this great tax cut they got (and are most likely going to keep) and one of their earliest criticisms of President Obama was that all he was doing was blaming W for all the problems he was facing. In the eyes of Tea Baggers, W was president during the glory days.

    In a field of Palin/Gingrich (one is going drop out early to campaign for the other), Daniels, Romney and Bush, it will come down to Palin/Gingrich vs. Bush. In the end, though, I'm not sure who will win that fight.

  • "More than one primary opponent will ask if that's the way Daniels approaches problem-solving."

    Oh, come now. I know you're smarter than that – the only way that's going to be criticised is that he didn't sell it to some good Real American corporation. No proper Republican nowadays worries about state revenues – (1) when you can freely make up whatever you want, why should you care what the facts might be, and (2) it's only right that the private sector make lots of money off something, because the government would only squander that money on shiftless, lazy not-Real Americans. Anyway, when things don't work out, you can just blame it all on the Lieberals and you're good to go.

  • That estimate of the toll road's revenue equals $800,000,000 a year. In other words, he leased it for 80 years to get 2.5 years worth of it's revenue immediately.

    Either he's really bad at math, or really hates our children.

  • Entomologista says:

    @Aleks: He's not bad at math. It's that, like 99% of politicians, he just doesn't give a shit about anything beyond the next election cycle. It's all about what voters are going to remember when he's up for re-election.

  • Does the lease for the toll roads also require the Spanish corporation to maintain the roads, staff the toll booths, etc.? If so, $80 billion in revenue is VERY different from $80 billion in profit. If not, I'd agree with you that it's a terrible deal.

  • Re: Andrew, yeah, that's a good point. It's actually a good deal (or a decent deal) for Indiana if the Spanish corporation has to hire Indiana contractors to do the work. They probably would anyway, because it's not like hiring some spanish workers and bringing them to Indiana is remotely cost effective. It would be hilarious if they subcontracted a Mexican company though.

  • The Man, The Myth says:

    I'm struck by how fickle these voters can be. Remember – it was only 2 years ago that Obama came in and it feels like a lifetime. With all the teabaggers claiming we are no longer a "free" nation, you would forget that the guy had the largest majority of any President since Reagan in 1984. Additionally, I find it disturbing just how little in terms of specifics politicians offer to be very successful. The more I think about it the more I like the notion of having philosopher kings… but I'm presuming that I'll be one of the kings so it may be a tad narcissistic of me. I'm not excited to vote this time.

  • I'm no fan of privitization, but in presenting this case, you'd need to account for the time value of money – that $80 billion would need to be discounted back to present value at a reasonable….er…um….some sort of- interest rate.
    Ie the $1billion the Spanish Co. is supposedly going to get in the year 99 years from now, is not worth $1 billion today. It's not even close- this is not a small adjustment I'm talking about, it's a huge one.
    Also- it of course assumes that the toll road will still be viable and collecting tolls 100 years from now? Um. Surely by THEN we'll have those flying cars we were promised?? (Or else just have run out of oil.)
    And, of course, this case is showing the revenue side only – not the expenses. If the toll road's projected 100-year expenses were, say, $70 billion, that would matter rather a lot. Again, I'm not advocating privatization of Govt assets, it is generally used as a quick way to raise immediate cash, instead of having to face the need for responsible, long-term funding of the States. But oversimplifying the numbers in such cases can distort them wildly- especially when there are projections so far out to the future.

  • Does anyone know the details of the toll road deal? $2 billion for a 100 year lease could be either awesome or horrible depending on those.

    If that lease involves the spanish company maintaining the roads and staffing the toll booths, and the $2 billion is actually cash, then that's a pretty ridiculously-awesome deal for Indiana isn't it? At a modest 5% interest, that $2 billion now is worth $263 billion in 100 years. Surely the Spanish company isn't that stupid? If that's $800 million per year in projected revenue (not net profit), then it's even more of an awesome deal for IN.

    Where's the catch?

  • Even though the Indiana toll road is a minor piece of Ed's post, it's pretty funny that he oversimplifies the calculation just one night after ranting about how magical math can be used to exaggerate a message.

  • I'm not sure who the GOP nominee is going to be, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to be a five-foot-tall guy with a sad-ass comb-over who has all the charisma of the bank-examiner guy from "It's a Wonderful Life." The fact that he was was part of George Bush's economic brain trust is just the nail in his tiny coffin.

    The GOP nomination works on a seniority system, anyhow. The nominees are somebody who ran before and did ok, but didn't quite make it, or a past VP/VP candidate. The only way you get to buck this system is by successfully invading Europe, like Eisenhower, or by getting your daddy to write you a note on his White House stationary excusing you from this process.

    That leaves you Romney, Huckabee, and Palin for 2012.

  • Disagree. I think that someone like John Thune could beat Obama pretty easily in 2012, mainly because no one knows who the fuck he is and thus he can easily shape his narrative, which seems to be more important than actual policy positions these days. Various factions of Republicans hate Romney, Palin and Huckabee with a white-hot anger, so Thune may be able to run up the middle because he's a crazy right-winger, but again, nobody knows who the fuck he is. The only knock against him is that he will be portrayed as a "Washington insider" but given his competition in the primary it may not be that big of a deal. In a general he will just pound the shit out of Obama for being a socialist and given the state of the economy could very easily win depending how shit-crazy the far-right is at that point and whether Independents will listen to a Republican candidate again. This country is in general so fucking stupid that I could very easily see us electing a Republican again to govern this morally and economically broke-ass nation of ours.

  • If Mitch Daniels is the Republican nominee for President, I will fucking quit my job and devote myself to any Democratic campaign I can. He is the worst kind of politician there is, crying "TAX CUTS!!" and making the average man believe that his taxes are getting cut, while it is actually the fucking multimillionaire across town who is saving hundreds of thousands. Then, the local schools have no money, but the rich don't have to worry because the private Christian schools are doing just fine. And the worst part is, the poor guy can't wait to vote for Mitch again.

    Politics is the worst…why do I study it?

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