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Mitch Daniels Shows the Party Committees How it’s Done

Due to his success at managing the government of Indiana into a budget surplus in the middle of a serious economic recession, Mitch Daniels is far and away the most popular Republican in Indiana. His endorsement in the upcoming Senate primary has been the most sought-after endorsement of any of the candidates running, and many assumed that Daniels would endorse Coats, who is emerging as something of the establishment candidate. Yesterday, however, Daniels quashed all speculation concerning who he would endorse with an unequivocal statement:

Popular Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has no plans to endorse in the GOP primary battle for his state’s open Senate seat, he told POLITICO Sunday.

“I have never involved myself in primaries, and I won’t in this one,” Daniels said when asked if he planned to endorse the frontrunner, former Sen. Dan Coats. “There’s some terrific, admirable people running, Dan, of course, one of them.”

**SNIP***

Daniels, who is in Washington for the National Governors Association winter meeting, insisted that he was not concerned about a contested race for the GOP nomination – but warned the candidates involved to not venture outside the bounds.

“A primary, provided its run in a positive way, is a good thing and not a bad thing,” he said. “A lot of it depends on people conducting themselves in an affirmative way.”

Daniels’ endorsement of any candidate in the race would have served as the de facto endorsement of the state party, and would have carried far more weight than the endorsement of the national party or the NRSC. However, while Daniels went on to call Coats the front-runner, Daniels realized that evenly-contested primaries decided by the voters – especially when there is no incumbent in the race – are the most valuable tool for ensuring that the strongest candidate makes it to the general election. When a force as powerful as Daniels puts a thumb on the scale – or when the NRSC lends its resources to a favored candidate – it can easily lead to an inferior candidate surviving the primary through artificial advantages. Hopefully, given the debacle currently unfolding around NRSC-favored candidates like Crist and Fiorina at the present time, this is a lesson the party committees will take to heart, especially in a year when the Republican electoral base is plugged in and ready to make their own informed choices about the direction of the country.

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