If McCain loses this time around, I think I have my candidate for 2012. When Indiana was facing a severe budget shortfall, Mitch Daniels, a budget hawk, backed a tax hike on Indianans making over $100,000. Though the legislature didn’t go along with the proposal, he demonstrated a level of sanity and flexibility that’s admirable. Daniels also made a number of controversial decisions to improve the quality of Indiana’s infrastructure that have since paid off. He expanded healthcare coverage and placed a strong emphasis on prevention. In the Hoosier tradition, he has also sought to increase competition and transparency in the delivery of public services and he’s a firm believer in data-driven — i.e., reality-based — public policy. There’s a lot to like. He’s gone through long spells of extreme unpopularity, yet one senses that he’s won grudging respect from voters. Now, Daniels doesn’t exactly sound like the candidate who will set the base on fire. But perhaps a solid, steady, competent manager, one who turned around Indiana’s public finances, is exactly the face Republicans should be presenting the next time around.