After Mitch Daniels' widely praised GOP rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday, the Indiana governor's supporters stepped up one last push to draft him into the presidential race. More than half of GOP voters want more candidates to choose from, and more than 15,000 people have signed a "Run, Mitch, Run" petition posted online after Newt Gingrich's South Carolina primary victory on Saturday. Daniels' backers say his record of fiscal reform makes him the perfect foil for Obama, but Daniels, who was George W. Bush's first budget director, has said since May 2011 that he would not run. Is there any chance he'll be the "white knight" who rescues Republicans dissatisfied with frontrunners Gingrich and Mitt Romney?
Daniels could save the GOP: The spectacle of watching the "off-putting" Gingrich and the smarmy Romney duke it out, says William Kristol in The Weekly Standard, should fuel "the groundswell of support for Mitch Daniels." Mitt comes off as "dishonest," and Newt as "disingenuous." Daniels, on the other hand, would make his party proud. "If Mitch Daniels's effective tax rate is 30 percent rather than 15 percent, and if he was never paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac, he can be the next president."
"Debate winner: Mitch Daniels"
It's too late: Sorry folks, says Allahpundit at Hot Air, but there's no room in the race for Mitch. There was a time when "Mitch might feasibly [have jumped] in as a Not Romney/Not Gingrich" alternative. But the fact is, Gingrich's South Carolina surge transformed the race "from 'Romney vs. Gingrich' into 'establishment vs. anti-establishment.'" Much of the establishment has very clearly already backed Romney. Mitch Daniels is very clearly an establishment candidate. So as long as Mitt is in the race, there's no room for Mitch.
"New Republican Governors Association video: Second look at Mitch Daniels?"
Plus, he's too close to Bush: Right now, Daniels "looks pretty good" next to Romney and Gingrich, says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post. "But everyone looks pretty good before they enter the campaign." If Daniels actually jumped in, voters would learn that, as George W. Bush's budget director, he oversaw Bush's first round of tax cuts and his "deficit-financed Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit." Daniels would cease to be a model of "sober Republican governance" as his rivals "hang him with the mistakes of the Bush years."
"Mitch Daniels can't save the Republican Party"
And Daniels might even make matters worse: In the highly unlikely scenario in which Daniels enters the race and wins enough delegates to force a brokered convention, he'd put the GOP "in a terrible bind," says Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. Nominating him would infuriate both the grassroots rabble who support Gingrich and the mainstream elites who like Romney. "In which case, the 'cure' of a Daniels candidacy might turn out to be worse than the 'disease' — a weak Republican nominee."
"None of the above"