Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whose man is Mitch?

If you follow politics through national news sources, you could be convinced that a winner had been found among Republican presidential candidates—if only his wife will let him run.

You could be convinced that this candidate may be so strong that he can win before even announcing his candidacy.

Who is this exciting and charismatic leader? Newt? Well, not Newt, who has too much history.

Not Mitt, who is dismissed as not Republican enough, and not even Sarah, whose star no longer seems so bright. Who then? Drum roll, please.

The name all over the national news is Mitch. Who? Mitch Daniels, the two-term governor of Indiana.

If you have no idea who Mitch Daniels is, you are not alone. His name does not even show up in the early polls. The decision that he is the legitimate Republican candidate appears to have been made in what used to be called smoke-filled rooms.

Gov. Daniels' name, usually shorthanded as "Mitch," has hit the national news in a big way over the last few days, seemingly out of nowhere. We may not know him, but Rupert Murdoch of Fox non-News and Republican über-strategist Karl Rove sure seem to.

The first discussion of Daniels as a candidate appeared in the editorial section of The Wall Street Journal, owned by Murdoch, who makes no excuses for the use of his worldwide media empire as a conservative king-making force.

The desirability of a Daniels candidacy was parroted on Fox, also owned by Murdoch. Others picked up the drumbeat from there.

Rove's backroom fingerprints are more subtle. Because Daniels is virtually unknown in most of the country, he's being sold as a fiscally responsible, business-focused gubernatorial success. The 2012 election is already being framed as "Mitch the Moderate" vs. "Obama the Socialist."

The national press, and voters, should look carefully at who Daniels really is before buying into Mitch the Moderate.

Why, for example, did the moderate Mitch, who said it was necessary to call a truce on social issues, sign the most radical anti-Planned Parenthood legislation in the country? Or, how about his sell-off of a taxpayer-built state toll road to a Spanish-Australian consortium?

Voters should not simply assent to the insiders' backroom choice of candidates. Better to pay closer attention and demand that those who stand in for us, the national press, ask lots more questions that are answered with real answers so we can pick our own candidates.

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