Is Christie or Daniels really Mr. Right?

Yet like many middle-aged men, Daniels carries baggage. I’m not talking about his divorce and subsequent rapprochement with his wife. As George W. Bush’s budget director, Daniels low-balled the Iraq war bill at $50 billion to $60 billion. George Packer reported that officials in the U.S. provisional government in Iraq “faulted the OMB man back in Washington for nickel-and-diming their every request for money.”

There was a budget surplus of $236 billion when Daniels began with Bush. There was a $400 billion deficit when Daniels left. Fox’s Chris Wallace asked him: “Do you think it was wise — at a time when we were fighting two wars — to have two tax cuts and launch a huge new entitlement?”

Daniels said the terrorist attacks changed the calculus. He added, “Don’t look at 2 1/2 years when I was in the supporting cast.” He urges us to look at his leadership in Indiana instead. The competition will hardly oblige.

That’s when high expectations are tested. We have, after all, seen hot prospects flop before. Sometimes, as she gets to know him, the electorate loses interest. She did with John Glenn and Wes Clark. They’re occasionally seen as insufficiently committed. Ted Kennedy initially balked. Fred Thompson never cared enough. Some candidates are unable to escape their complicated pasts. These deal-breakers caught up to Kennedy (Chappaquiddick) and Rudy Giuliani (his liberal side). Many a romance cannot survive such drama. And in time, the electorate could wonder what she ever saw in him.

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