The word now is that Mitch Daniels will take advantage of Haley Barbour’s departure from the Republican field to begin running himself.

Before we delve into that, a word about what “running for president” now means. With the proliferation of varieties of campaign finance, one can run for much longer without actually “declaring” and opening a federal campaign account. In the past, it was a straight line from not running to what was called an exploratory committee to officially running. Now, various soft money accounts can be much easily used to drag the process out.

Haley Barbour never opened a federal, hard money campaign account for a presidential campaign. He never formed an exploratory committee. But he was running for president. He did so by forming a number of state based PACs to fund his travel and other campaign activities.

He was running and he looked at the response he was getting from voters and donors. He and his team pored over the crosstabs of polls.

He did that and he saw that he was losing. This early, losing doesn’t mean being behind the front runner. It means not seeing that path victory.

Barbour and his team couldn’t put together a path to victory for the unreconstructed brobdingnagian lobbyist. So he dropped out. But because he had been running in what is colloquially called the “invisible primary,” without having formed either of those two “official” campaign accounts, when he dropped out, he described it as a decision “not to run.”

Which is rank bulls–t.

He ran and he lost, that’s all.

There was some effort to correlate Barbour’s dropping out to Mitch Daniels moving to get in.

Most of what was put forward was also rank bulls–t.

Yes, Barbour would have tried to be the wise navigator of difficult economic policy concerns. But mostly he was going to try and make a good showing in New Hampshire and then try and roll up as much of the South as he could.

Mitch Daniels is of Arab-American descent and is uncomfortable talking about the hot button issues of social conservatives. Not exactly a cinch in a GOP primary in a Southern state, is he?

Supposedly, Barbour and Daniels are good friends. Daniels waiting until Barbour flunked out to start making moves to get in probably has more to do with the personal relationship between the two than any shared constituencies (including donor constituencies – Barbour’s donor base was the result of years of personal relationships and could hardly be transferred to someone else by just handing over his rolodex; it just doesn’t work that way).

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