David Brooks writes today that “Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who I think is most likely to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2012, is the spiritual leader” of the new wave of conservative Republican candidates.

Policy leader, maybe, although I prefer Bobby Jindal. Or electoral leader, although the rising star of Chris Christie seems to be showing conservative candidates the way to go. But spiritual leader ? This is the man who called for pro-life voters to put their concerns away and declare a truce —because the economic issues are more important than any social or moral issues.

Spiritual isn’t exactly the word for it. And the reaction to Daniel’s “truce” comment suggests that this isn’t the way to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination.

UPDATE: Peggy Noonan adds : “Whatever stand you take on the social issues, you have to be blind to think they will make a big difference this year.” Now, she’s writing in the context of answering the claim of the White House’s David Axelrod that abortion will “certainly be an issue” for Democrats and will be raised “across the country.” And she’s right that, in people’s minds, the economic issues loom—as they must—very large.

So I think I agree with Peggy. But the Republican candidates would be mad to imagine that they can therefore put away or hide from abortion. The base of the party is energized and angry. A non-pro-life candidate, or a constant drumbeat of claims that abortion doesn’t matter, will only leave them demoralized. Still angry, of course, but no longer determined to use the ballot box to change the course of the country. If your voters don’t show up, how are you going to win?

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