Mitch Daniels, the wonky Indiana governor who spurned Republicans in search of a heavyweight to post up against Mitt Romney, will give the GOP's response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday.
The opportunity will allow Daniels to articulate the Republican Party's election year message following a State of the Union speech that is sure to touch on themes Obama's reelection operation will use against his Republican opponent in the general election.
Statements from Washington's top Republicans -- House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- foreshadows a GOP response focused on the deficit and debt to be delivered by a politician seen as a rock star in the world of conservative fiscal policy.
Perhaps no Republican politician in the country takes the fiscal crisis, the debt crisis, that we're in more seriously than Gov. Daniels, said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant. The signal you're sending with Mitch Daniels is seriousness and sobriety.
Daniels' strong resume made him an attractive candidate for Republicans to court. Daniels, who closed the door on a 2012 run in May, is a two-term governor of a state Obama narrowly won in 2008, served as President George W. Bush's budget chief and was an executive at Indiana-based drug giant Eli Lilly.
Republicans have said Daniels has a solid record of spending cuts and balanced budgets. He is already being discussed as a strong vice presidential candidate.
And yet, there are pitfalls that need to be avoided when talking about deficits and debt. The election year message from Obama and, to a lesser extent, the pack of Republican presidential contenders is about jobs, jobs and more jobs.
The key for a successful State of the Union response will be using the federal debt crisis to tap into voters' anxieties about high unemployment, the economy and the debt's impact on the next generation.
You can draw a straight line from debt and deficit to jobs. It takes a minute to do it, Mackowiak said. You got to be able to make the case in a sober, thoughtful and serious way. Daniels is uniquely positioned to do that.
Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said Daniels was a smart choice for GOP because of the party's difficulty in explaining how their policy agenda will grow the economy. Even Obama received some disapproval from Americans over his tough talk on deficit after the 2010 midterms in lieu of focusing on a jobs plan.
GOP has had a difficult time messaging why deficit reduction, entitlement reform, tax reform and regulatory reform will promote long-term economic job growth, O'Connell said.
If Daniels gets a good response from a message about deep spending cuts and balanced budgets, the GOP presidential candidates could crib a winning general election message.
He can provide them with a road map, O'Connell said, if he does this right.