Daniels fleshed out his argument some more.
"The percentage of people actually working in America," he said, "is the lowest since the days of the stay-at-home mom. And so, you know, let's hope for better times. But this is a really pathetically weak economy, with storm clouds in Europe, storm clouds in oil prices. And I consider it very unlikely that President Obama will have anything but a big negative in terms of the biggest issues of all when the fall gets here."
Until recently the GOP planned to center its 2012 message on blaming President Obama for a sluggish economy. But recent indicators suggest the recovery is taking hold more quickly than was expected. That complicates the party's strategy. So over the last few weeks Republicans have been testing alternate messages.
One of them, floated recently by Mitt Romney surrogate and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, is that the GOP is responsible for the improvements, not President Obama. "Look, I'm glad the economy is starting to recover, but I think it's because of what Republican governors are doing in their states, not because of the president," he said two weeks ago.
The two messages are different in that one of them embraces the fact that the economy is improving while the other one downplays it. And that gets to the heart of the GOP's strategic dilemma: good economic news would boost President Obama's odds of reelection, and they can't openly root for bad economic news. So, how do they deal with it?
If Daniels' remarks are indication, the message might become "things could be a lot better."