The candidates for president in next year’s election are maneuvering for position as the inevitable winnowing and bankroll-building accelerates.
Since only a few have taken the formal steps necessary to run, by “candidates” we mean the prominent names cited by that oracle coined years ago by columnist Russell Baker: “The Great Mentioner.”
In that category is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose protestations of disinterest have been issued regularly for months.
But Daniels made news this week when he signed legislation that ends government funding for Planned Parenthood in his state and bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He also signed a bill that ties public school teachers’ pay and promotion to effectiveness in the classroom, not just seniority – which, of course, is opposed by teachers’ unions, a strong part of the Democratic base.
Sounds like Daniels is moving in the direction of embracing social issues – something he earlier declared there should be a “truce” on while the federal government sorts out its budget and deficit woes.
Another factor is that his buddy Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has just pulled out of the race, and in the eyes of many observers this has freed up Daniels to run – not to mention the Barbour connections and fund-raising abilities the former chairman of the Republican National Committee could bring to a Daniels campaign.
Moving on to a few others, several were in the kick-off state of New Hampshire this past week.
“Five possible contenders, including three considered in the top tier, hacked away at President Barack Obama before enthusiastic conservatives, but aimed no barbs at each other,” reports the Associated Press. “All of them deplored higher taxes, government regulations, and Obama's 2010 health care law. They generally differed more on style than policy, a tactic that may change in coming months.”
Those in the Granite State were former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and pizza magnate Herman Cain.
Mike Huckabee kept himself in the news with a speech to the National Rifle Association blasting Obama on the economy as well as guns. For politicians with national ambitions and an eye on Jewish voters and Israel, it never hurts to mention the Holocaust, as Huckabee did.
So did Michelle Bachman, who invoked the Holocaust to warn of doing nothing while "watching quite literally our economic liberty pulled out from under us."
Remember Sarah Palin? She seems to have slipped into the background. According to Gallup this past week, 65 percent of those surveyed say they definitely would not vote for her (a percentage point worse than Donald Trump) – including 37 percent of Republicans.
As the GOP pack continues to swirl about, some party leaders are hoping that more serious, substantial candidates will join in – including, perhaps, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, and especially Gov. Daniels.
Meanwhile, the Obama reelection effort is preparing for the inevitable onslaught of highly-funded campaign attacks, fighting fire with fire.
It’s formed two independent fund-raising outfits to counter conservative groups like Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, used so successfully by Karl Rove and others in the 2010 midterm elections to give Obama and congressional Democrats a shellacking.
One of those new Democratic groups will not disclose its donor list – the kind of thing Obama has strongly criticized.
But as former White House senior advisor David Axelrod said on NBC's "Meet the Press” Sunday, “You can’t expect one side to operate under one set of rules and the other side to operate under another.”
Or as the late, great California lawmaker Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh once said: “Sometimes you have to rise above principle.”