On defense, Perry points out the success of public employee pension plans in three Texas counties that outperform Social Security. But these programs are impossible to scale up in a society where most employment is in the private sector, where most people will hold multiple jobs over their working lifetimes and where many people move from state to state (often, as Perry points out, to Texas).
Daniels laments that the candidates "have not yet stepped out on these issues." He says that he is "a little concerned that our nominee might decide, 'I'll just play it safe and get elected as the default option'" to an incumbent discredited by obvious policy failures.
"My question then is what matters -- winning or establishing the base that enables you to make big gains?"
It's a good question. As a campaign consultant, the candidates I admired most were those able to take hard stands on serious issues and make their positions work for them in the primary, in the general election and then in governing. It sounds easy, but not many manage to do it.
Barack Obama sounded like such a candidate in 2008, and not just to his liberal admirers. He still tries to portray himself as the only adult in the room, the only one taking stands on principle and not for political gain.
But it's increasingly obvious he is something more nearly the opposite. George W. Bush did campaign for Social Security reform in 2004, hoping for bipartisan support in a second term.
Obama is campaigning against "millionaires" and "corporate jets." His "jobs program" includes higher taxes on job creators. He brushed aside his commission's recommendation for tax reform that eliminates preferences and lowers rates.
All this makes no sense as public policy and is dubious even as a campaign strategy. The question is whether the Republican candidates will dare to, in Daniel's words, "speak grownup to citizens."