ABC News’ Amy Walter and Michael Falcone report:
For Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels it appeared that there were not enough metaphors in the English language to describe the failures of President Obama and his administration.
In a keynote speech that Daniels, a potential 2012 Republican White House hopeful, delivered to a room full of conservative leaders and activists in Washington on Friday night, he warned of a “financial Niagara,” complained of an “orgy of regulation,” and lamented the arrival of a “new Red menace” in the form of mounting national debt.
During the 30-minute address that closed the second day of the Conservative Political Action Convention, Daniels served up a speech that was heavy on substance and even, at times, critical of what he called the “venomous, petty, often ad hominem political discourse of the day.”
Though he’s been criticized by some on the right for comments he made last summer suggesting that social issues should take a back-seat while the country deals with its fiscal woes, he made no mention of issues like abortion, same-sex marriage or guns. What he did do, however, was envision a Republican Party that appealed to a broader electorate.
“We will need people who never tune in to Rush or Glenn or Laura or Sean,” he said, referring to the popular conservative media personalities. “Who surf past CSPAN to get to SportsCenter.”
His remarks amounted to a call to arms for Republicans at the threshold of a presidential election cycle in which Daniels, himself, could be a key player.
“The nation must be summoned to General Quarters in the cause of economic growth,” Daniels said.
Though Daniels predicted that liberals might dismiss a series of policy prescriptions he outlined as “radical,” he said that conservatives should push ahead nonetheless.
“Opponents will expect us to be defensive, but they have it backwards,” Daniels said. “When they call the slightest spending reductions ‘painful,’ we will say, ‘if government spending prevents pain, why are we suffering so much of it?’ And ‘if you want to experience real pain, just stay on the track we are on.’”
Daniels, a Princeton-education former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush who is serving in his second term as governor of Indiana, pulled no punches when it came to his criticism of the Obama administration.
“The health care travesty now on the books will engulf private markets and produce a single-payer system or its equivalent, and it won't take long to happen,” he predicted.
Daniels accused Obama of presiding over a “two-year orgy of regulation,” pointing to the president’s recent Executive Order stepping up oversight of federal regulations.
“Today's EPA should be renamed the ‘Employment Prevention Agency’,” the governor said.
And Daniels equated the nation’s rising national debt with the historical threat of Communism: “It is the new Red Menace, this time consisting of ink. We can debate its origins endlessly and search for villains on ideological grounds, but the reality is pure arithmetic.”
Daniels offered few clues about his own presidential ambitions, but the crowd responded very favorably to his message.
David Dowd, a CPAC attendee from Washington State, called it “very refreshing, what we need to hear,” adding that Daniels offered “cold, hard substance.”
As for criticism that the balding, vertically-challenged Midwestern government lacks the charisma needed to be president, one CPAC convention-goer responded: “America doesn’t need sexy, America needs reality.”