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Opening Arguments

Our dark horse Mitch

RealClearPolitics puts Gov. Mitch Daniels second on its list of five most likely GOP dark horses for the 2012 presidential nomination, just behind South Dakota Sen. John Thune ("a political giant-killer, knocking off then Minority Leader Tom Dachle in 2004.") and just ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry ("rock-solid conservative credentials and a long electoral track record in one of the nation's largest states"). Rounding out the list are Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn ("approaching legendary status as a deficit hawk since entering the Senate in 2004") and the darkest of dark horses, former Vice President Dick Cheney ("nothing would match the drama of an Obama - Cheney general election cage match").

Of Daniels, it is said:

At a time when not just the nation's economy but its growing debts are a mounting concern, Daniels' credentials as a fiscal conservative are likely his strongest asset in a potential 2012 race. Indiana currently has one of the lowest budget deficits in the county as a percentage of its general fund, and was one of the few states not to implement new or higher taxes this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Daniels has often said publicly that he has no interest in running for president, but RCP says he may sending other signals behind the scenes:

U.S. News & World Report claimed just this week he's been consulting with veterans of national campaigns, including former Vice President and Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, on a potential run.

Rep. Mike Pence also gets a mention as one of the "best of the rest," one of three GOP representatives who are "up-and-coming GOP stars" who may be "players at the presidential level at some point."