A CHARACTERISTIC THE GOP BASE MAY NOT APPROVE OF…. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) has not yet said whether he intends to run for president, but if he does, I fear this may be an issue for his party’s base.

While some GOP presidential contenders ratchet up their anti-Muslim rhetoric to toxic levels, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is set to accept a prestigious award next month from the Arab American Institute.

May Berry, executive director of AAI, told TPM that the award was incidental to his status as a possible presidential candidate and celebrates his broad record of public service and his Syrian heritage, which is not commonly known. Nonetheless, she noted that Daniels’ award comes at a time of increasingly mainstream anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in conservative circles.

For all I know, the Republican base wouldn’t care about this at all, and I certainly hope that’s the case. Daniels was born in the U.S. — though I suspect Donald Trump will want to see his birth certificate — but his paternal grandparents immigrated from Syria. This should, in theory, be about as interesting as the governor’s favorite color.

But I keep thinking back to that event John McCain held about a month before the 2008 presidential election, when an elderly Republican voter said, “Obama is an Arab.” McCain, to his credit, corrected her, but the point is, for some on the right, Arab = bad, or at a minimum, Arab = Muslim (and Muslim = bad).

It’s unfortunate, and it desperately needs to change, but attitudes on the right on these issues are routinely awful (see Park 51, controversy surrounding). Hell, a few months ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) appointed a Muslim state judge, and some right-wing activists threw a fit, not because the lawyer was unqualified, but because these conservatives just don’t like Muslims.

What will these folks say about a Republican presidential candidate of Syrian heritage?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.