Report: Chris Christie, Scott Walker privately pledge to back Daniels if he runs

Eeeenteresting. Christie and Walker have each issued the obligatory formal denials since the report came out, natch, but they’ve also both cooed over Daniels publicly in the last month. And it’s no big stretch to think that two Republican governors famous for being fiscal-con warriors would gravitate to the other guy in the race (or soon to be in the race) who fits that bill.

I keep thinking Daniels will have a hard time getting the base to warm up to him, but if he hits them with this one-two endorsement punch, maybe not. Christie’s endorsement alone wouldn’t do it — he’s the guy who backed Mike Castle, after all — but toss in the hero of Wisconsin and suddenly there’s a lot of mojo working.

Reflecting what many observers see as weak Republican field, the pressure on Daniels to run has been intense. He has been assured backing from big-money donors who supported George W. Bush, in addition to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as top sitting Republican governors.

Sources tell CBS News popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has told Daniels he would back him, as would Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

And as a sign of how important his wife is to the decision, sources tell CBS News that even former First Lady Laura Bush has called Cheri Daniels personally to encourage her to support the effort and offer advice on how to define what her role on the campaign–and potentially in the White House–would be.

If it’s true, and if in fact Daniels gets in, the big loser is obviously Pawlenty. He’s the “other” fiscally conservative midwestern governor in the race, in case Christie and Walker are intent on backing someone with that description, and his viability depends chiefly on being the most electable “Not Romney” in the field. Daniels’s entry would make people ask, “Why Tim instead of Mitch?” Now that Daniels has signed the bill defunding Planned Parenthood, even the presumptive “social truce” answer to that question doesn’t have the same juice that it used to.

Daniels, who was Bush’s OMB chief, also reportedly told well wishers last night that in a perfect world, if he ran, he’d have Condi Rice as his VP. I take that to mean he won’t pick her if he’s nominated, merely that he wishes he could. Which makes sense: She’d bring foreign policy chops to the ticket that he lacks and, of course, racial and gender diversity, but a Team Bush ticket just four years after Dubya left office will make a lot of Republicans nervous. It’ll also compound his problem of having to explain why he should be trusted to right the fiscal ship of state when his old boss contributed to it listing in the first place. Ace also makes an interesting argument that Daniels, uniquely, might have problems putting a woman on the ticket because he’s already seen as a bit too deferential to his wife. I’m skeptical that that’s true: Men who question Daniels’s “toughess” probably won’t question it enough to be driven into the arms of Barack Obama, and meanwhile Condi might help lure women independents out of O’s camp. If Ace is right, though, I think it’s a problem specific to Daniels and his public image, not a problem with U.S. politics generally. A guy like, say, Fred Thompson who’s seen as an alpha male in all other respects could get away with being viewed as a deferential husband. A guy like Daniels, though? Maybe not. That’s a lame double standard, but retail politics is often lame. Besides, there are other reasons to think having Condi on the ticket would hurt him — and none of them have to do with gender.