From Mitt to Mitch

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 13 2011 9:52 AM

From Mitt to Mitch

Peter Hamby scoops:

Doug Gross, an influential Iowa Republican who chaired Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential effort in the Hawkeye State and is strongly considering backing Daniels if he seeks the White House, described the Indiana governor as "perhaps the most effective Republican leader we have seen in the last decade."

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Quite the back-handed reference to Gov. Romney in there. And this reminds me of a short conversation I had with Jeb Bush on Wednesday evening. The former governor of Florida had just received a $250,000 Bradley Prize, an annual conservative award, and planned to give it all to his school choice foundation. I knew that Bush had already been talking up Daniels, so I asked an open-ended question: Which states was he looking at as models of smart education reform?

"Indiana's the one -- he hit it out of the park," said Bush. "Oklahoma, too. But Indiana set the bar."

Two things jumped out at me. One: Without me prompting him, he nodded at the "he" who'd signed the reform into law. Two: This demonstrates the Mitt/Mitch problem, doesn't it? By some theories of presidential politicking, the Mitt Romney record of winning in a deep blue state and compromising with Democrats makes him more electable than a guy who won in a red state (maybe a "purple" state, thanks to its 21-point swing to the Obama column in 2008). But Romney's record is studded with compromises. Daniels's record -- especially the way it's being packaged by friendly journalists -- is one of massive conservative wins and reforms, with every minor compromise (the stand-down after the Democrats left the state) matched by two or three triumphs.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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