The GOP field is not set. The contenders are in various stages of undress as the strip tease proceeds. So we begin with a catch-all listing of those clearly running (such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty); those seriously toying with running (Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, etc.); those who might be persuaded to run (such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio); and those who are running but tilting at windmills (Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, and so on). In total, we evaluate nineteen actual or potential candidates here.
Mitch Daniels : Here is another accomplished governor from a vital Midwestern swing state. Unlike Pawlenty, Daniels has not thrown his hat into the ring and may never do so. In an old-fashioned way, he has been testing the waters, dipping a toe in here and there, dropping hints and suggesting that he might, just might, try for higher office. Again, it is impossible to get into the head of a potential candidate, though the old political rule of ambition usually applies: you have to want the White House so badly that the fire in your belly can substitute for heating oil all winter long. If Daniels does run, he has an impressive record to tout. Daniels has been a very popular two-term governor in Indiana, and his earlier service as head of the Office of Management and Budget in the George W. Bush White House potentially qualifies him to make a case for reducing yawning national deficits and debt–although he can also be accused of having helped to create the debt mountain. The problem for Daniels is that he may be viewed as more of a manager than a potential president. In addition, while Daniels fits the old definition of conservative to a T, he is not much of a revolutionary from the Tea Party perspective, and he is suspected of having moderate tendencies on both about the possible need to raise taxes in order to reduce the deficit as well as the kind of priority a president should give to controversial social issues. Daniels is leaving office in 2012 since he cannot run for a third term, so the timing of a presidential campaign is perfect–if he really wants to spend his last couple of years as Indiana’s chief executive roaming the nation in an extended, humbling job interview.