I was one of the reporters who tried to RSVP too late to Mitch Daniels's address at AEI today, but I watched the speech via the think tank's live stream. It was supposed to be about Daniels's education reforms and it really was about Daniels's education reforms. He started it off by joking about all the new attention -- which spiked after Haley Barbour bailed on 2012.
"Some pajama-clad blogger turned it into a major policy address," he said. When he was originally asked by AEI what he would talk about, "I said hell, I don't know. Best guess'd be education."
The speech, accompanied by a slideshow, was a mixture of policy and politics. Daniels seemed to relish the pictures used by teacher's unions to attack his policies, and played an ad running in the state to support his reforms. He was on very safe policy turf, talking up an idea to pay students if they graduated from high school early and went to vocational school or community college, and praising the Obama administration.
"I want to salute, commend -- I really, really do -- the president and Sec. [Arne] Duncan," he said.
It wasn't until late in the Q&A that Daniels finally got some questions about national politics. He was pleased, he said, that the race was starting late and he was getting asked about it.
"I consider that a blessing," he said. "Unless you're a political professional or running a bed and breakfast in New Hampshire, it's a darn good thing we'll have a presidential election measured in months and not in years."
A reporter from The Weekly Standard asked Daniels to clear up comments he'd made on Monday about Afghanistan.
"What did I say?" asked Daniels.
"Oh, the struggle's not over," said the reporter.
"Well, I don't think that's all too deep a thought," said Daniels.
The anti-Daniels faction, such as it is, is populated by people who think he's not concerned with social issues and that he's too glib about foreign policy.