Why they consider Romney the most formidable and are relieved Daniels won't run
Gov. Mitch Daniels is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to President Obama's political team, the Hoosier was the most credible Republican spokesperson on economic recovery, the man whose results as Indiana governor would compare most favorably to the man in office. Now that he's not running, the Republican field lacks a credible Obama antithesis.
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The killing of Osama bin Laden takes the issue of competence and terrorism off the table (at least for now), but at the same time, the sluggish economic recovery is more conspicuous. If Republicans can't question whether Obama is fighting above his weight class--the jibe had been that he's "in over his head"--they'll bash him with facts and figures about personal income growth and employment rates. Democrats would want voters to associate Daniels with the deficits of the Bush era, but Daniels could probably escape that trap. Many of his ideas--he's told Republicans to "pass the brandy and get to work"--have (surprise?) made their way into law via the Obama administration.
So, no Daniels. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, can make a credible case that, so far as the economy is concerned, his policies turn 180 degrees from Obama's. But Paul's libertarian support seems to have a ceiling. And though some of his predictions about the economy have proven prescient, the media elite remains unconvinced about his ability to bring younger libertarians into the party at a fast enough clip to be a credible delegate-gatherer.