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Mitch on Mitt

As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, Ricochet’s own Mitch Daniels, in his final month as governor of Indiana, speaking last Friday at a forum sponsored by the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale:

Gov. Daniels said, “In one of those imaginary private occasions that no longer exist for people in public life, Governor Romney memorably discussed the 47% of Americans who, he said, are dependent on government and therefore would never vote for him. In his post-mortem after the election, he reportedly extended this theme, saying that too many people had allowed their votes to be bought with promises of someone else’s money….”

“I believe that the self-inflicted fatal blow of Mr. Romney’s statement came among Americans who find themselves in receipt of some form of government transfer, but reject or even despise the notion that they are permanent parasites for doing so. Think of people on Social Security earned through a lifetime of honest toil; of men thrown out of work by a reeling, mismanaged economy and desperately trying to find new employment while on unemployment insurance; of young families, including active duty military personnel, working hard but still accepting food stamps which, for the moment, they legitimately need to provide adequately for their families.”

Said Mr. Daniels, “My take, as a practitioner, is that millions of Americans thought they heard Mr. Romney label them as parasites on society, and said not ‘Yes, and I deserve it’ but ‘Hell, no, that’s not me.’ Whatever he intended, the candidate deeply offended countless citizens” and “the blunder was never corrected and in fact was exacerbated, by a staggering tone-deafness to the language and the fears of average Americans….

“And in language that entirely overlooks and omits the most powerful appeal available: ‘We believe in you, and your ability to decide for yourself, and they don’t.'”

Which, come to think of it, represents the best succinct test of rising Republican talent: Who has the guts and forthrightness to say “We believe in you, and they don’t”? Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Kelly Ayotte, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley–that’s half a dozen right there.

Mitch may be departing from the public theater–next month he’ll become president of Purdue–but by his own standards those entering, so to speak, stage right, look good.