February 19, 2011

TRUCE WITH THE MIDDLE, WAR ON THE RIGHT:

The Strategy Behind Mitch Daniels' Truce (Robert Heiler, 2/18/11, RealClearPolitics)

Here are the principles being missed, and their implications:

• Word Choice: The key word in attacks on Daniels has been "surrender." He has supposedly dealt a blow to his own ability to win the nomination by alienating social conservatives, who will not tolerate surrender on social issues. As Mark Twain once said, the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

A truce is not a surrender, and the pivotal difference between them is that the former is temporary and the latter permanent. In this case, the truce for which Daniels calls is meant to last until November 2012. The reason for the truce is to better contend for the votes of the independents that ultimately tip the scales in any presidential election, many of whom are put off by culture wars.

• Position: "Only Nixon could go to China" is enough of a cliché for screenwriters to have put it in the mouth of Leonard Nimoy, claiming it as an ancient Vulcan proverb. But like most clichés, it represents a very real truth. As David Kuhn of Real Clear Politics recently observed, Mitch Daniels is a bona fide and verifiable social conservative. If Rudy Giuliani called for a truce, critics might be justified in suggesting that he really meant surrender. There is little in Daniels' background to suggest that he is a Giuliani-style conservative. [...]

Daniels' fundamental strategic calculation, largely revealed in his recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, is this: in 2012, beating Barack Obama will require, as he put it, "a coalition of a dimension no one has recently assembled." That will require attracting many independents, who agree that our government is overgrown and profligate, but are often put off by a focus on conservative social positions. That is the whole point of his call for a truce. He has further calculated that his record, the time available, and his current relative freedom to speak to discrete groups will allow him to shore up the social conservative base. His surrogates will be reminding those voters that George W. Bush had the reputation of being one of them, but that only their full-on revolt stopped him from putting Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court.


That last bit is the point--the Right doesn't trust actions, only rants. Fortunately for Governor Daniels, the base picks the nominee; the Beltway doesn't.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2011 8:38 AM
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