The GOP consolidation in the wake of Rick Santorum’s withdrawal continues today, this time live on Fox News as Mitch Daniels finally endorses Mitt Romney. In their exclusive interview, Daniels focuses mostly on Barack Obama and his economic policies. Daniels starts off with a self-deprecating joke that “it must be a slow news day” if this gets live-air treatment:
Daniels said, “He’s already won our nomination, he earned it. He’s proven himself the best nominee we could put forward. I’m just happy to sign on and help him.”
He later blasted the president’s economic policies, including the proposed Buffett rule, saying that the country needs leadership that will unite us. “That’s why I am for Mitt Romney, who will try to gather us together and quit trying to drive wedges between us,” said Daniels.
This isn’t exactly a tough interview. In fact, it sounds a lot like a tryout for the #2 position on the ticket, which Daniels’ public announcement could be. Romney could do worse, too, than to pick a Midwestern governor with a good reputation among fiscal conservatives and a record of reform. Daniels didn’t take the bait when asked directly whether he’d join the ticket if asked, saying that he’d be happy to be “a number 22” or whatever the Romney campaign wants him to be to help win the election. Let the speculation begin!
A better question will be whether this helps accelerate Republican cohesion. It certainly doesn’t hurt, but it’s probably less impactful than if Daniels had endorsed earlier in the race. At this stage, the endorsement looks more like a unifying effort than a specific endorsement. That could change if Daniels hits the road and starts campaigning for Romney, though. Fiscal conservatives who remain leery of Romney might feel more enthused if Daniels makes the argument for Mitt in the weeks between now and the convention. They may feel even more enthused if they believe that Daniels will have a significant role in a Romney administration.