Recently, a group of Yale students launched a web-based campaign to encourage Republican Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels to run for President in 2012. [Disclosure: Many of these folks are my friends, though I am not involved with their cause.]
Calling for "A Petition to Draft Daniels," the group models itself after a similar successful grass roots groundswell that launched Obama's campaign in 2008.
Draft-Daniels ran a television ad on all major networks in Iowa during a major college football game.
Another ad ran this weekend in the DC area, starring Jimmy McMillan, the star of the 2010 New York gubernatorial race who is best known for his catch phrase "the rent is too damn high."
The movement has gotten a lot of press online and on TV (including big name websites like Politico.com).
Now, you may not think Daniels is "the guy" to defeat Obama in two years; I am not sure he is. However, this student initiative teaches three important lessons to conservative candidates across the country.
1) The web isn't just for the Democrats anymore. In 2008, many commentators attributed the broad liberal electoral gains to effective online fundraising and get out the vote efforts by groups like MoveOn.org. The Republicans -- in contrast -- looked old and out of touch, unable to grasp the power of the Internet.
No more. The Draft Daniels website is a slick, hip, and bold move. It says that conservatives can adapt. In 2012, the Democrats won't be able to outmaneuver the opposition with technology.
2) The Yale initiative signals that today's youth are not as progressive as everyone keeps saying they are. At one of the most liberal universities in the country, a bipartisan group of students came together to champion a conservative cause. Whomever the GOP picks in 2012 will have a strong young voice consisting of college students disappointed with Obama and his false promises.
3) The next Republican President will unite the country if he or she concentrates on fiscal conservatism, federalism, and national security -- not social politics. Daniels himself said that he wants to call a social "truce" and avoid issues like gay marriage and abortion. Instead, we need to focus on the national debt and terrorism.
In many ways, avoiding a national moral debate should be familiar to the GOP. Reagan rallied his base around cold-war policy and promises of limited government, while George W. Bush found common ground with all his supporters on tax cuts.
Daniels may not go any farther than this student-driven website. However, he and his Yale supporters have taught us an important lesson: Conservatives in 2012 have a bright, young, and tech-savvy future.
Nathaniel Zelinsky is a Sophomore at Yale University.
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