Candidates like Mitch Daniels rarely win nominations.

They never win Presidential elections, where good looks, a velvet tongue, and rock star branding almost always trump competency, intelligence, and character. Just look at the last three guys we’ve elected.

Even more of a kiss of death is this article from Politico, which tabs Daniels as the favorite of the pundits, talking heads and policy wonks. And if you are wondering why this is the kiss of death, take a gander the candidates from the past that these political nerds had a crush on in the past:

Bruce Babbitt. Paul Tsongas. Ross Perot. John Anderson. Lamar Alexander.

Not exactly a murder’s row of memorable candidates.

I’m surprised Robo-dork himself, Steve Forbes doesn’t get a shout out, given the names above.

But Daniels certainly deserves a look, especially if our government keeps spending money like that contestant on Wheel of Fortune who won’t solve the puzzle until they’ve purchased all the vowels.

What makes Daniels different from, and potentially more formidable then, his truth-telling predecessors is that he’s not just The New York Times’ idea of the ideal Republican. The man known as The Blade during his tenure as Bush 43’s first OMB chief also has more traditional conservatives swooning.

“He’s a Reaganite who is not trapped in 1980s nostalgia,” wrote National Review editor Rich Lowry last year. “He’s a fiscal conservative who believes not just in limiting government, but in reforming it to address people’s everyday concerns; he’s a politician of principle who refuses to sell his program in off-puttingly partisan or ideological terms.

In his appeal to both center and right, he resembles another politician whose ability to transcend the frivolous political culture delighted the punditocracy both within his own party and in the middle — Barack Obama.

Daniels will undoubtedly have his detractors, especially given his penchant for not giving two craps about social issues. Many will recall his proposed “truce” on social issues that certainly did not endear him to the conservative right, especially the evangelicals, who have a major influence on who gets the GOP nod every four years.

But there are some conservative thought leaders who find merit in a Mitch Daniels candidacy:

“I do like Daniels, and I think that Americans often vote for the opposite of what has disappointed them,” said conservative columnist George Will on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday. “If they’re disappointed with Mr. Obama, then a short, balding, unimpressive, uncharismatic, competent governor might be just the key.”

And Charles Krauthammer, who sees a Sarah Palin nomination much differently than many other conservatives:

The idea of a skilled manager who is passionate about ideas, can claim real policy accomplishments and speaks bluntly, but not bombastically, has thrilled influential conservatives like Will and Charles Krauthammer who see a Palin nomination as akin to a suicide pact.

The latter describes Daniels as a happy medium between the rising stars who are still a cycle away — Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio — and the familiar faces who have considerable flaws such as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

“He would be the compromise between the young guns who are too young and the ones we’ve already seen who are not attracting enthusiasm,” Krauthammer said on Fox News last month.

Daniels faces the daunting task of convincing the social conservatives that he won’t sell their causes down the river, while maintaining his credentials as first and foremost a fiscal conservative who will do the desperately needed cuts and reforms to government and find a way to bring the deficit back to Earth.

Now there’s a tough budget to balance!

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