The Low-Key Conservatism of Mitch Daniels

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has been getting a lot of attention lately. The Weekly Standard, a good barometer of a certain segment of Republicans, ran a profile of Daniels as its latest cover story. Today, Politico's Andy Barr points out:

With a Wall Street Journal op-ed, an admiring Weekly Standard cover story and an upcoming Washington high-dollar fundraiser, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is slowly stepping into the 2012 presidential spotlight, even as he insists he isn't looking to run.

In a wide open field, the GOP governor's name keeps popping up despite the fact that -- unlike many other potential candidates -- he hasn't aggressively promoted himself. Daniels hasn't recently visited Iowa or New Hampshire, and his name isn't always surveyed by national pollsters looking at the prospective field.

Daniels' resume fits the bill for fiscal conservatives; having turned Indiana's budget around with cuts, Daniels can sound the right notes about government efficiency.

But I'm more interested in Daniels' attitude, rhetoric, and general demeanor. As Andy Barr reports, he's a low-key guy.

In that sense, he doesn't really fit in with the Tea Party, or any of the newly minted fiscal conservatives loosely in agreement with that movement. The tone of the right today is decidedly keyed up. It is steeped in anger and outrage at government spending--an anger that Daniels does not convey. He is not, by nature, severe. The Tea Party is.

Daniels is more about efficiency of government--not drastic eliminations or a broad, almost pre-federalist vision of government's limited role. Even if he wants to do some of the same things Tea Partiers support, presenting those ideas in terms of responsible, efficient government is almost not enough. In some ways, the message has to be about a drastic scaling back, juxtaposed with the socialism of Obama. That's what's in demand.

It's unclear how long the right's keyed-up tone with sustain itself. Democrats stayed angry about the Iraq war for years; how long will conservatives keep up their aggressive ire?

It's conceivable that Daniels will better match the tone of the conservative movement in early 2012, when the presidential primary begins. If not, he could be just the man to cool it off.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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