The race amongst putative Republican candidates for the US presidency seems to be one to announce that you're not running, rather than entering what is at the moment a pretty narrow field. And it just got narrower, as Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels cited family concerns for not joining the race in 2012.
An American friend of mine, a strong Obama supporter now residing in the UK, was almost in despair as she considered the one Republican who might be able to unseat the current occupant of the White House. It was, she said, Mitch Daniels, a man who combined rare qualities of empathy and commonsense with a core Republican appeal given his past history as speechwriter to Reagan and Budget Director to Bush I. I seem to remember a speaker - a former Congressman - at a conference at the British Museum last September making a similar point - if the Republicans wanted a winner, they should look to the Governor of Indiana.
Well, Daniels has pulled that rug from under the Republicans - perhaps reluctantly - and the current Republican field remains a distinctly uninspiring one, comprising Gingrich, Pawlenty and Romney. Now I guess we're just waiting to hear from Michelle Bachmann to really liven things up. I think we can guess what the team in the White House are hoping for.
There is, incidentally, another angle to the Daniels decision that is worth examination. He has said he cannot run because of his family. We may guess that they are firmly against. And who could blame them, for in the intensely observed goldfish bowl of American politics, why would any sane individual, concerned for their stability and, yes, their privacy, want to subject themselves and their families to the relentless, hysterical and often hypocritical scrutiny of the presidential process. If they're not careful, the Americans may one day find that the only people willing to run for the presidency are the same sort of people who apply to be contestants on reality television. So perhaps Sarah Palin may be in with a chance one day after all.