Mitch Daniels doesn't want to run for president; he simply wants you to ask him again.
The Daniels-for-President boomlet seemed to have died out Wednesday, when the Indiana governor told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he is not raising money, is not interested in the job and is most definitely not campaigning.
Until, that is, he added that he's quite willing to listen to those bending his ear on the topic. Says Daniels: "People have asked, 'Please don't absolutely close your mind' and I have said I'll think about it."
Quick, will someone please check and make sure David Brooks hasn't fainted? The New York Times columnist, who speaks about Daniels the way baseball announcers tend to talk about David Eckstein -- "I like him because he's about 5 feet 7 inches or so. He's low to the ground. His fan club should be called the Mitchets." -- has brought up Daniels' name at virtually every conceivable opportunity, both in the New York Times and on Meet the Press. And Brooks is very far from alone. Joining that club are fellow New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, the National Review's Reihan Salam and Mona Charen and Hot Air's Ed Morrissey.
If this Daniels to-do sounds familiar, it's because it should. Who should all of this remind you of? That's right, the Roman emperor Servius Sulpicius Galba, of whom Tacitus famously wrote: "Everybody agreed that Galba would make an excellent emperor, until he became emperor." In this case, substitute "became emperor" with "formed an exploratory committee to run for president in Republican primary races," and you'll have Mitch Daniels circa fall 2011.
Either Galba, or Fred Thompson. Remember him? For months before he entered the 2008 Republican field, Thompson fielded nonstop calls to claim the conservative mantle. He checked all the right boxes -- publicly denouncing CBS, calling out Michael Moore and unveiling a flat tax plan. For a certain cross-section of voters, he sounded too good to be true. Thompson entering the race seemed like the only logical choice for him, after 60 out of 62 Republicans from the Tennessee State Legislature signed a letter urging him to run and influential social conservatives Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer, among others, practically got down on their knees and begged.
And then Fred Thompson declared his candidacy. Suddenly, everyone remembered he was still the same man who managed to author only four laws despite eight years in the Senate and was known to hightail it out of the chambers at the stroke of five p.m.
So far, no one is laying the laziness rap -- or the dumb rap, à la George Allen; or the crazy rap, à la Sarah Palin -- on Mitch Daniels. Why bother? Chances are, if he actually to enters the race, the same crowd now clamoring for Daniels will become conveniently inconspicuous. They mean well, but it is doubtful that they're actually serious about betting all on a candidate who, as Ross Douthat put it, is "a balding, wonky Midwesterner who reminds voters of their accountant."
Now, everyone telling Rick Santorum -- "I sort of feel in some respects I'm being pulled along in this. I'm still seriously going through this process. And at this point I'm very encouraged by everything that's happening." -- that he has a chance? Just stop. It's not funny.
Well, maybe it is a little funny.