Damn the polls, full speed ahead.
While in the Christmas spirit, Matt Tully has praised Mitch Daniels for being a "politician willing to offer idea after idea in a state where new ideas are often shunned." Lesley Stedman Weidenbener has given a nice rundown of Daniels' "idea after idea", and rough handicaps on some of their political chances.
In the face of this artillery barrage of new ideas, some of which contain political friendly fire (to continue the military analogy), the Indianapolis Star says that Daniels is "undecided on when to decide" about running for a second term. In the piece, the governor quips that a traffic accident could cause him to not run again. That sort of remark doesn't seem like something you would hear from a guy that is giving serious consideration to not running.
Does anyone seriously think that Mitch Daniels won't run for a second term? While he is not exactly beloved, he has faced none of the problems of, say, Ernie Fletcher in Kentucky, who is being actively challenged in the forthcoming gubernatorial primary and may not even be on the ballot to run for reelection when Kentucky elects its governor next year.
I've said many times (and I won't bother to link to them), that Mitch Daniels can use a mixture of big ideas to exploit Democratic opposition to his administration while seizing the middle ground and adopting some popular Democratic issues for himself. A Hoosier version of the Bill Clinton and Dick Morris strategy of triangulation, if you will (even as loathsome as the mention of Clinton must be to a Republican like Daniels).
Yet as he continues to throw out yet more big (and often controversial) new ideas, the potency of such a strategy is diluted and its potential fades. People get dull to constant announcements of big new ideas just like they get dull to anything else. Daniels already has the image and reputation of a hard-driving, polls-be-damned reformer.
Mitch Daniels doesn't need to tread into more controversial terrain on things like privatizing the lottery to cement that image. He also doesn't need to divide his limited political capital among so many divergent reform notions. The vision thing matters, but so do execution and focus.
The governor, as leader of his party and a politician whether he admits it or not, must bear in mind the challenge facing him if he (as seems certain) intends to seek reelection. Appearing to be a damn-the-polls man of ideas is one thing. Being one, and politically recklessly so, is quite another. He's probably not to a tipping point there yet, but he should be wary of getting too close to one.
Ideas, after all, have consequences. Big ideas, even larger ones.