Jennifer Rubin describes a pretty impressive performance by Mitch Daniels in front of a group of conservative activists and journalists. The biggest problem that I got from the meeting was Daniels' insistence that the social issues be "set aside" while we deal with the country's economic problems.
This is a good way for Daniels to lose more friends than he makes. There is a way to integrate and deemphasize the social issues without alienating social conservatives. It involves articulating a framework and laying out a series of incremental policies that have majority support. For instance he can describe his pro-life convictions and say that he is in favor of legislation to remove the license for abortions in the last three months under most circumstances. If he wants to be a strict federalist about it, he can say he favors that legislation on the state level. He can surely say that he opposes federal subsidies for such abortions. And then he can move back to the economic issues. He will also need a good answer on federal judges and the role they play on social issues.
Daniels can run, but he can't hide and he can't even really call a timeout. We can't have a total timeout because these issues are part of public policy and they will be thrust on the next President (if only on court appointments) whether Daniels likes it or not. These issues matter even to many people who don't rank them at the very top of their concerns. If Daniels really wants to diffuse these issues, the answer is an eloquent statement of his principles and a prudent, incrementalist policy agenda. Social conservatives are not the problem. McCain didn't lose because he spent too much time talking about Obama's abortion extremism. If Daniels can let them know that he will, within the limits of the powers of his office, seek to advance some social conservative goals, and appoint judges who will not usurp the power of the voters in order to impose liberal policies, Daniels might find plenty of common ground with social conservatives and alot of political room to focus on his economic policies. But he needs to stop telling social conservatives to shut up about their concerns until such time as Daniels decides that American can afford to talk about them again .