All this honesty might evaporate on the campaign trail. And if it didn’t, would Daniels have a prayer? He’s admired by elites, but unknown at the grass-roots level. He’s a social conservative, and his gubernatorial campaigns have played the populist card successfully — but he lacks the built-in constituencies of other candidates. And his years’ carrying water for the Bush administration’s budgets would doubtless be used against him in the battle for the Tea Partiers’ affections.

For a Daniels candidacy to catch fire, what’s left of the Republican establishment, currently (if reluctantly) coalescing around Mitt Romney, would have to decide that he’s the better pick. That would mean gambling that the best way to defeat the most charismatic president of modern times is to nominate a balding, wonky Midwesterner who reminds voters of their accountant.

Stranger things have happened.

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