Mitch Daniels appeared at the American Enterprise Institute today (you can watch his speech here on YouTube) to speak about the education reforms he pushed through in the recently concluded session of the Indiana General Assembly. But inevitably, the subject of his possible presidential campaign came up. Daniels didn’t have an answer but he did protest that he has plenty of time to decide.
He’s right about that. Despite the eagerness of the press corps to begin reporting on his candidacy and the desperation of many Republicans who are lamenting the thin field of declared contenders, Daniels can take as much time as he wants in deciding. In fact, the longer he waits the better it will probably be for him. The prolonged and artificially-enhanced tension that such a wait will provoke among voters and the press can only make him seem more desirable. Spending the summer chasing around Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina with the likes of Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain won’t enhance his desirability to GOP primary voters or caucus-goers. But a summer spent keeping the press and the party on their edge of their collective chairs waiting for his decision will make his eventual decision seem as if it is being handed down from Mount Sinai.
But as this week’s events ought to have brought home to him, Daniels should spend some of that time formulating some coherent positions on foreign policy. As governor of Indiana, he could afford to ignore security issues and concentrate on being America’s leading fiscal conservative/domestic policy wonk. As a presidential candidate, Daniels will need to present a viable case for his being a commander-in-chief. He will need to communicate a vision of how to deal with threats from Iran and its terrorist allies as well as the many other foreign policy dilemmas the next president will face.
Keeping us all guessing about his willingness to run is one thing. Keeping us guessing about his positions on war and peace is quite another.