Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Tim Pawlenty didn’t win CPAC’s straw poll. Like most of the 2012 field, he ended up in the low single digits.
But Pawlenty still managed to show he’s not just the nice-guy candidate for president. Unlike another former governor who spoke at CPAC – Romney – Pawlenty proudly touted his record as chief executive of a liberal state to argue he’s ready to go toe to toe with Democrats and win at any cost.
“I set a record for vetoes … Had the first government shutdown in Minnesota’s history. Took one of the longest transit strikes in the country’s history to get public employee benefits under control,” Pawlenty said. “The federal government should do the same.”
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels
If Mitch Daniels decides to run for president, this week will be remembered as the start of a brilliant rollout.
On Wednesday, Daniels reignited chatter about a potential presidential bid by telling POLITICO he believes he could assemble a powerful campaign operation. Two days later, he gave a well received address to CPAC that prescribed “bariatric surgery” for a “morbidly obese federal government.” The speech landed Daniels’s mug at the top of the Drudge Report, the right’s favorite required reading.
Daniels has left political observers guessing at his intentions – and often repeatedly changing their guesses – for months. At CPAC he handed in a solid performance that showed why he ought to be taken seriously in an unsettled presidential field.
Rich Lowry writes at National Review Corner:
Mitch Daniels gave an extraordinary speech at CPAC last night. As anyone who has ever done any public speaking at all knows, the hardest thing to do is to tell people things they don’t necessarily want to hear. For Daniels not to strike one pandering note, and even to challenge the audience at times, speaks to just how grounded he is. He even put in a good word for the occasional necessary compromise. Few potential presidential candidates would dare say such a thing in a CPAC speech.
Then, there was the amazingly frank core of Daniels speech: his endorsement of extensive changes in entitlement programs to ward off what he called the “red menace” of unsustainable debt. If Daniels runs for president and gets the nomination, Democrats will have an entire campaign’s worth of material to demagogue in just this one speech. It’s as forthright a presentation on these issues as you’re likely to hear this side of Paul Ryan.
Finally, as Maggie noted, Daniels didn’t even flinch on the (deeply mistaken, in my view) notion of a truce on the social issues, even though it has caused him untold political grief; he just disguised it a little. The logic of the truce is still in this line (somewhat hyperbolically) comparing the debt to an invading army: “If a foreign power advanced an army to the border of our land, everyone in this room would drop everything and look for a way to help.”
In short, a very notable speech, and one that makes you think after hearing it: “That guy should run for president–and probably won’t.”
Screenshot from Drudge, February 13: