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Eye on 2012: Is Branstad betting on Mitch Daniels?
The British bookmaker Ladbrokes put unannounced, but much-speculated-upon, potential GOP presidential candidate Mitch Daniels at 25-1 to win the White House in 2012.
Those long odds may turn into what horse-racing handicappers call a “good price” if Terry Branstad is elected to be Iowa’s next governor Nov. 2 and continues to sing the praises of the Indiana Republican as he did during a campaign stop in Carroll Wednesday.
“What I’ve done is I’ve looked around the country and said, ‘What states have really made a difference?’ And one of the states that I’ve seen that’s made a difference in recent years is the state of Indiana under the leadership of Gov. Mitch Daniels,” Branstad said during his Carroll speech.
Branstad said Daniels, elected in 2004, came in as a fiscal-restraint Republican and reduced the cost and size of government, and used technology to add efficiencies.
“Today, six years later, compare and contrast Indiana with its neighbors, Ohio on one side, Illinois on the other, Michigan on top of it,” Branstad said. “Every one of those states is deep in debt and in real financial trouble and losing jobs. Indiana, on the other hand, has seen a growth in jobs in recent years, and they’re getting their state’s financial house in order.”
There are numbers to back up Branstad’s heaping helping of accolades for Daniels. An in-depth June profile in the Weekly Standard magazine outlines many of Daniels’ accomplishments in great detail. Most noticeable is this: For the first time in 40 years more people are moving to Indiana than leaving it. In 2008, during the Obama tidal wave, Republican Daniels won re-election with the most votes in the state’s history — including 20 percent of the African American vote.
In 2004, there was a $200 million deficit in Indiana. Four years later the Hoosier State showed a surplus of $1.3 billion.
For his part, Daniels is making no early rumblings of a presidential run. On Wednesday, Daniels told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he’s not interested in the White House.
“This is nothing I have started, encouraged,” Daniels said. “People have asked, ‘Please don’t absolutely close your mind’ and I have said I’ll think about it.”
“It’s nothing I’m going to do anything about,” Daniels told the Kentucky newspaper.
Iowans have heard those sorts of denials before from other eventual presidential candidates.
His speech in Carroll wasn’t the first time Branstad has made it a point to speak highly of Daniels. Branstad’s recently announced plan to dissolve the state’s Department of Economic Development is patterned after Daniels’ work in Indiana. And Branstad even caught flak from the Democratic Governors Association earlier this year for a television ad that was nearly identical to one of Daniels’ ads from his 2008 re-election campaign.
The Daniels speculation raises the potential of an intriguing scenario for the GOP in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. The party could have western Iowa social conservative Bob Vander Plaats, a supporter of the last Iowa GOP caucus winner, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, again backing the homespun preacher. And in the other corner, the Republicans may very well have Branstad, a sitting governor with his political machinery humming, standing with Daniels, a numbers man.
Branstad wasn’t the only significant Republican in Iowa this week talking about the prospects of a Daniels run. Former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes has been in Iowa promoting a new book, “How Capitalism Will Save Us.”
In an interview with The Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich, Forbes spoke highly of Daniels.
“He’s had a very impressive record in Indiana, long-term. It’s a state that has a lot of manufacturing here in the Midwest, and its credit rating went up,” Forbes said.
In Carroll, after the Branstad event, state Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, (an early and loyal supporter of Sen. John McCain in the 2008 caucuses and primary process) told The Iowa Independent he thought Branstad was clearly referencing Daniels as a gubernatorial role model who has launched programs and policies Branstad likely will seek to replicate in Iowa.
“I didn’t read any more into it than that, but I know there is speculation about the governor of Indiana and he’d certainly be welcome here in Iowa,” Roberts said.
And Daniels, like other governors, can point to actual accomplishments to develop a connection and rapport with Iowa voters, Roberts said. If Daniels can do that, “he becomes a player in 2012.”