Mitch is still all the rage. Nope, not the Senate Minority Leader. Bush’s budget director and now the Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels carries has the same sheen as he did last summer, when he made the rounds at DC think tanks and was featured as a “Mitch the Blade” action figure on the cover of National Review.  The Weekly Standard continued the attention earlier this summer with a more subtle image of the Governor astride his Harley.

Last Friday, The Economist correspondents apparently got some of the Mitch glitter in their eyes, making Governor Daniels one of the features of their U.S. section, and again picturing him riding his motorcycle.  Gosh, this apparently self-effacing Hoosier must really be one cool guy.  All this attention is enough to make Sarah Palin reconsider her transportation choices.

But is Daniels slick enough to pull together a fractured GOP?  As the Economist notes,

It is unclear that a clever, measured candidate stands a chance within the Republican Party. Neo-cons are allergic to talk of defence cuts. Social conservatives were rabid after Mr Daniels, anti-abortion himself, told the Weekly Standard that he favoured a temporary truce on social issues. “It just happens to be what I think,” he says, arguing that politicians need to unite on urgent matters of national security and debt. He is also unlikely to fire up tea-partiers. “Didn’t somebody say in a different context, ‘Anger is not a strategy’?” he asked your correspondent over a rare plate of steak and chips.

Would a President Daniels really make defense cuts?  Could he stand up to culture warriors who scream ‘federalism’ and ‘states’ rights’ when it comes to guns but are fine with federal intervention on social issues?  Who would staff a Daniels administration?  More of the staff-in-waiting at the Project for the New American Century?  Or is there a new version of Brent Scowcroft in the wings who we don’t yet know about?  We’ve had the Daniels dog and pony show.  If he’s still considering a presidential run, let’s start asking the hard questions.