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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Daniels Out: Now What For the Gravitas Lobby?

Mitch Daniels’ decision not to run for president next year, communicated to key supporters in the wee hours of Sunday morning, clearly surprised those most in the know about his preparations for a candidacy. Indeed, it seems that much of the elite conservative commentariat that was so visibly pining for a Daniels run is in a state of shock. The public grieving has barely begun. We will soon see writers fond of scolding the public for its addiction to self-indulgences like a social safety net turn and scold the media for scaring Daniels out of a presidential run by speculating about his marital history and its possible impact on the race.
After the rending of garments and the finger-pointing, the Gravitas Lobby could scatter in different directions. Some will panic and beg for another Great Big Adult to enter the race at the last moment–Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, perhaps even Rick Perry, who isn’t necessarily all that adult, but does have the ability to raise money and a record of saying the kind of highly irresponsible things beloved of Tea Party activists, and has a plausible path to the nomination. Others will make their peace with the existing field, and gravitate (no pun intended) to damaged-goods Mitt Romney or smaller-than-life Tim Pawlenty (who is formally announcing his own candidacy today).
We’ll never know if Daniels would have indeed gotten on his Harley and barnstormed across the early primary states exuding the “charisma of competence,” and getting Republicans all lathered up by his austerity message, or would have instead crashed and burned like many candidates in the past who excited elites more than actual voters. But we do know time is beginning to run out on efforts to recruit a dark horse savior for the Republican presidential field.

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