It’s the end of the road, politically speaking, for Richard Lugar and Mitch Daniels.
Lugar. Daniels is stepping down after term limits are forcing him out of the governor’s office.
Lugar lost in the May primary to Richard Mourdock. Mourdock then lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly.
A popular term used to describe Lugar is that of “statesman”.
And I cant’ disagree.
As for Daniels, I’ve interviewed him a couple of terms while he’s been governor.
I think I’d best describe Daniels as a gentleman.
And short. The man is very short.
But he truly is a gentleman.
I may have not agreed with every move he made as Governor. I can say the same for Lugar.
But I view both men as pragmatists.
That is especially true for Daniels.
Daniels is, at his core, a businessman.
And for that reason, he is a person who will try something. Whether its conventional or not, he’d try in the name of making the state better.
If something worked, he stuck with it. If something didn’t, he wouldn’t.
I voted for Mitch Daniels both times he ran.
I didn’t vote for Mike Pence in the most recent gubernatorial race.
Pence has tried to paint himself as a sort of “Mitch 2.0”.
And that’s a smart move.
Pence would be wise to pattern his tenure as governor after Daniels. Especially since it seems inevitable that Pence will eventually make a run for the White House.
Many wanted Daniels to make a Presidential run.
The idea being that guys like Daniels or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are moderates.
They are fiscal conservatives. They aren’t ardent TEA Party loons when it comes to things like gay marriage or any other social issue.
Daniels and Christie, their supporters would argue, speak to that silent majority in this country.
In my opinion, this country is one that is center-right. That might be shifting. But many people in this country are moderates.
They want a shot at a career. They don’t want to pay too much in taxes. They want to make sure their family is safe. That their kids can get a good education.
See Daniels, much like Christie, doesn’t come across as an ideologue.
If it’s a good idea, it seems, he’ll run with it. Party politics be damned.
Now don’t get me wrong, Daniels knows how to play the game.
You don’t get where he is by always eschewing the Republican machine.
But he’s deftly maneuvered that loyalty to doing things in the best interest of the state.
Now I have zero inside information. Daniels has said he intends to work for Purdue as its president. He wants to see his grandkids grow up. He wants to be a private citizen.
And that all very well may be true.
But I also believe that the reason Daniels didn’t run in 2012 and won’t in 2016 is because the system is fundamentally broken.
First, candidates of both parties get put through an unfair ringer when it comes to their past and personal lives.
Daniels had a few blips (See: drug bust and divorce) on his personal life radar. But nothing shocking. Maybe he didn’t want his family to go through that.
After the personal life meat grinder, both parties force their candidates to cannon toward the fringes of their parties.
Maybe Daniels didn’t want to pander to the far right.
Daniels is affable. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s even-tempered.
If there is one thing against Daniels, it’s the mortal sin of not being great on T.V.
He’s good on T.V. but not dynamic. And in the current political landscape, you can’t succeed unless you’re a star.
That’s why the Barack Obamas and Sarah Palin’s catapult to the front of the line.
You could argue that Christie may bow out of a 2016 bid because he doesn’t want to constantly hear how fat he is.
But back to Daniels. There seem to be several reasons he didn’t run for a higher office.
And none of those reasons are good ones.
As long as the system stays the way it is, good men like Daniels will decide not to participate.
By creating a system where we shrink the pool of candidates and leave out qualified candidates, we do ourselves and our system of government a severe disservice.