It's way too soon to be picking favorites, but we have to admit to some disappointment with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' decision not to enter the presidential race -- both because of who he is and what his decision may presage for 2012.
Mr. Daniels, a Republican, had made clear that the national debt would have been issues No. 1, 2, and 3 for him. His sense of urgency is warranted, and he had the record as governor to back up his message: tough on spending without being doctrinaire on revenue.
Though we would have disagreed with some of his priorities, he might have pushed President Obama toward more seriousness on deficit reduction than the President has shown thus far and sparked a valuable, honest debate about the proper size and role of government.
We accept Mr. Daniels' explanation for sitting out the race -- that his wife and daughters didn't want him to run. But there's no question that the primaries, and especially the Iowa caucuses, would have been tough for him.
Mr. Daniels had alarmed his party's social conservatives with his statement early on that the seriousness of America's fiscal challenge argued for a truce on other divisive issues. He later modified and clarified that remark but didn't back away from the underlying message that compromise is essential to governing.
"Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers," he told a conservative audience this year. "We have learned in Indiana, big change requires big majorities."
There's nothing new in Republicans running to the right in presidential primaries and tacking back to the center for the general election. Democrats do the same, running first to the left. Candidates of both parties run toward ethanol until they are safely past Iowa.
The worry is that they will run so far toward unreality that they will have a hard time coming back. We've seen former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney unlearn the evident principle that everyone should have health insurance, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty apologize for his earlier support of sensible, market-based solutions for global warming.
Part of the hope was that Mr. Daniels would show more spine. That's always easier for folks who test the water without diving in. But we hope those in the pool won't dismiss Mr. Daniels' message.
"No enterprise, small or large, public or private, can remain self-governing, let alone successful, so deeply in hock to others as we are about to be," he warned. And if taking this on "strikes you as a project of unusual ambition, given the state of modern politics, you are right."
But he added: "If it strikes you as too bold for our fellow Americans to embrace, I believe you are wrong ... They are ready to summon the discipline to pay down our collective debts as they are now paying down their own; to put the future before the present, their children's interest before their own."
-- Washington Post