Friday, February 18, 2011

Jeb Bush talks up Mitch Daniels for 2012

The supposedly smarter Bush brother:

Jeb Bush likes Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' 2012 presidential prospects. The former Florida governor told a private gathering of Jacksonville business leaders that Daniels is the only potential candidate he's heard who demonstrates a willingness to face up to harsh realities.

"Mitch is the only one who sees the stark perils and will offer real detailed proposals," he said, speaking at a reception held before he took the stage in front of a crowd of real estate professionals.

Well, look, Daniels is certainly one of the saner Republicans these days -- which admittedly isn't really saying much -- and his one and a half terms as Indiana governor have proven him to be a relatively responsible fiscal conservative. Not that I go for such policies, but he's preferable to most others in the GOP.

But Jeb's got the year wrong.

In terms of the Republican nomination, this isn't 2008, when a moderate could win as the sitting vice president to continue the Reagan presidency (Jeb's dad), or 1996, when a long-time leading establishment figure could win to face a popular president at a time of economic health (Dole), or 2000, when a safe conservative could win after eight years of Clinton and things generally looking good both domestically and internationally (Jeb's brother), or 2008, when another long-time establishment figure, if also something of a former maverick, could win with the party bitterly divided after eight years of Bush II, defeating a fairly weak primary field (McCain).

This is, or will be, 2012, and, as we saw last year, and as we continue to see now, the Republican Party has changed. It has moved, and is moving, further and further to the right and the Tea Party has become a major player across the country, booting out even credible hardcore conservatives who haven't met their far-right agenda or conspiratorial predilections. The Tea Party has its members on Capitol Hill now, but it's bigger in the base -- and you have to win the base to win the nomination. And it's not just the Tea Party. While there is significant overlap, the Republican Party is also the party of the Birthers. And of course it's not just fiscally but socially conservative in the extreme.

And Daniels just doesn't cut it. He's raised taxes, after, even going so far as to propose a tiny tax increase on the wealthy (a one percent increase for one year) that was rejected by his own party. And while he's socially conservative, he's not an activist social conservative. As Nate Silver noted recently, Daniels "has called for a "truce"... on social issues, and expressed a willingness to consider tax increases to rectify a budget deficit." I see how Jeb might like all that, but Republican primary voters certainly won't, should he even decide to run.

2012 just won't be his year, not as a relatively sane "moderate" in a party that is speeding away from him to the distant right.

(photo -- Daniels is the short one in the middle.)

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