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Indiana's Mitch Daniels 'open' to a White House run

By Dan Balz
Add one more name to the list of possible 2012 Republican candidates for president: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Two months ago, in an interview in his state capitol office, Daniels said explicitly he was not interested in running for president and dismissed speculation that he might be a candidate. That has now changed. During an interview at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association here over the weekend, Daniels said he has now been persuaded to keep open the door to a possible candidacy.

Daniels said he has had a number of conversations in recent months -- "none initiated by me" -- where the question of a 2012 campaign came up. "Just to get them off my back, I agreed to a number of people that I will now stay open to the idea," he said.

Among the people he has talked with is former president George W. Bush, though Daniels said it was not that conversation per se that tipped him to reopen a door he had seemingly closed.

Daniels served as Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget before returning to Indiana to run for office and was White House political director under former president Ronald Reagan. He won a landslide reelection victory in 2008 at the same time that President Obama was carrying Indiana in the presidential race.

Early in his tenure as governor, Daniels angered conservatives when he proposed raising taxes to help balance the state budget. Since then, however, he has become a favorite of fiscal hawks for the way he has run his state. Though conservative on social issues, Daniels has not made them a focal point of his political agenda.

In the aftermath of the party's defeats in 2006 and 2008, Daniels was critical of the Republican Party for having abandoned its principles. He warned that Republicans would have to "spend time in the penalty box" and earn back the public's trust before they would be returned to power. He also warned against complacency in the battle for ideas.

Daniels joins a growing list of possible 2012 candidates for the GOP nomination. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are active in their preliminary preparations. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour continues to decline to close the door, while playing down the probability that he will run. Speculation about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin bubbles along at a feverish pace.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has said he will decide after the November elections. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee says he is happy as a television host but remains a possible contender. South Dakota Sen. John Thune may be the next to receive what one GOP operative called a microburst of publicity if he begins to take affirmative steps toward exploring a candidacy. Other potential candidates may emerge through the elections in 2010.

Daniels said Sunday that he is not taking any preliminary steps, and instead would spend the next year focused on the problems of his state.

"I've got my hands full, trying to keep things glued together and take care of people who are sideswiped here, do the most essential things in state government, keep ourselves fiscally above water," Daniels said. "Two, I've got some major goals [and] there's a real chance of achieving in this job."

He said he would need "a friendly legislature" to accomplish his goals, and said that seemed possible given the more favorable climate for Republicans in this year's elections.

"From now to a year-plus from now, that's all I'm going to do," he said. "And if these people are still around, and still not fully satisfied with the field, and if I don't see anybody who's raising what I think of as the survival issues for the country, I guess I'd listen, if it's not too late, which it might well be. I've told people if it's too late, so be it."

Two months ago, saying "we're going to have to have some grown-up conversations in this country," Daniels alluded to the survival issues that he believes need to be raised by some presidential candidate in the future: debt and deficits, and the size and role of government.

On fiscal matters, he said, "It is one thing for people to say, 'oh my gosh, this is unaffordable -- these deficits, these entitlements, these unfounded liabilities. We're going to hand our children' -- and we are -- 'a horrible, unpayable burden.' It will be another when people find out exactly what it would take to prevent that."

Daniels said it's possible the fiscal crisis has reached a tipping point. He described the growth of government as another potential tipping point in the political life of the United States.

"Are we still a country where people would prefer freedom, personal autonomy, with the risks and responsibilities that go with it, or do we want to socialize all the risks we can and settle for what I think is the false security of statism and so forth?" he asked. "I think those questions have got to be presented by somebody."

Daniels acknowledged that the solutions to the problems of debt and deficits could involve sacrifices that would make the messenger unpopular. He admitted that making those problems the focal point of a Republican campaign could impede a potential comeback by the party. But he said he has become convinced that the issues will have to be raised in any case.

Whether that will lead him to run for president in 2012 is very much an open question. Daniels still sounds like a reluctant entry. But in acknowledging that he has moved off his once-staunch opposition to running, he may find a forum to talk about some of those survival issues he thinks need raising.

By Dan Balz  |  February 22, 2010; 11:41 AM ET
Categories:  Dan Balz's Take , Republican Party  
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"You've got to be kidding. The A-list Democrats around the state avoided running for governor in 2008 precisely because they knew that Daniels was a shoo-in for reelection.

I don't know where you're getting your information, but within the state of Indiana anyway, Gov. Daniels is political gold right now."

I live in Indiana. That's where I'm getting my information. Not beltway blogs.

Jim Schellinger had a 44% opinion poll lead over Lord Shorty at one point. But he was beaten out by the airhead state Dem party and their airhead candidate, Thompson.

We just presented a citizens' petition to Daniels over this scandal of his:

I can tell you that 9 out of 10 people that I hit up signed it, and you better believe that the vast majority of them are Republicans. As one farmer said to Daniels' spokes-liars at a jam-packed (400+) meeting on Daniels' "Indiana Commerce Connector" SCAM on January 23, 2007:

"I'm a Republican. Johnson County BLEEDS Republican. But Mitch Daniels will make a Democrat out of me yet!"

So keeping reading your polls & beltway chatter, and worshiping your personality (Lord Shorty), Buster, Duvall, et al. And as a Republican official/farmer told me not long ago:

"Be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true!"

Posted by: garyxindiana | February 28, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

As an Indiana resident I will tell you that most citizens have been very appreciative of what Gov. Daniels has done for our state. No one likes taxes, but when Gov. Daniels took over our state government he entered into a state financial budget deficit. He made a few very strategically intelligent financial moves to reduce as much debt as possible but realized the state was still falling short of balancing their budget and reducing our debt. At that point Gov. Daniels proposed a tax increase that covered what was necessary to close the states budget (after it was trimmed to the essentials) and covered our debts. He was open, candid and straight forward about why the tax was necessary and was honest in his assessment that after the debts were covered Indiana would remain fiscally balanced as long as he was in office. He has credibility in both the state senate and house, with republican/democrats/independants and has held true to the promises he stated during his campaign. If he runs, President Obama will not win in Indiana. I would venture to say that apart from Illinois President Obama will have a difficult time re-winning Indiana's surrounding states as well.....Michigan/Ohio/Kentucky.....all of whom played a major role in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Posted by: jduvall2816 | February 24, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

@ garyxindiana: "Daniels was NOT that popular. He was WIDELY despised, and still is. If the Indiana Dem machine hadn't plopped Thompson on us, if they'd just gone with the guy who actually WANTED to win, instead of going on an ego trip like Thompson did, Not My Man would've been toast."


You've got to be kidding. The A-list Democrats around the state avoided running for governor in 2008 precisely because they knew that Daniels was a shoo-in for reelection.

I don't know where you're getting your information, but within the state of Indiana anyway, Gov. Daniels is political gold right now.

I get the sense that the only people who don't like him are ones who are inextricably wed to the Democratic Party...which is about the same as it long has been for Sen. Bayh (who was popular with most Hoosiers except kneejerk Republicans).

America needs a president who knows how to tighten a fiscal belt. Daniels is proving on a regular basis that he can and will do that.

Posted by: ContrarianLibertarian | February 23, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I hope he runs -- he'd have my vote.

Daniels is a creative, action-oriented, and (most importantly) tight-fisted leader. He's not rabidly partisan, being a protege of Sen. Lugar's -- and isn't a fist-pounding social conservative who wastes precious time fretting over bogus issues like gay marriage.

I also think that he'd have broad appeal. A lot of my fellow independents will find a lot to like about him. But I also think that both sides of the Republican divide would be comfortable with him.

He even did very well with Obama voters in Indiana in 2008. That state went for the Democratic presidential ticket for the first time since 1964 -- and Republican Daniels still won reelection with 60% of the vote.

He's the real deal. I'm glad he's reconsidering...because the country could use his skills.

Posted by: ContrarianLibertarian | February 23, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Garyx -- Maybe you don't like Mitch but other Hoosiers sure do (Daniels has a 70 percent rating! (That is impressive)):

Just dealing with facts here and you are short on them. And one more fact: no, I am not a PR guy, I don't work for Daniels and never have, just think that he does a good job (and so do a lot of citizens of Indiana).

Posted by: buster5 | February 22, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I'd vote for him.

Posted by: FoamingSolvent | February 22, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Since last April I have predicted the deep Southern Confederacy States will push hard to get one of their own, namely Haley Barbour, to be our next president.
This idea that Mitch will run for President, will be squashed by Bush supporters, and that it is predicted that the future unfolds - it will eventurally be - Barbour-President - Daniels- Vice President.
The front-runner for the Republicans has to be from the South and Bush and Texas Neocons supporters. They will discourage all others " they will make other candidates an offer they can't refuse.
It will be Barbour, but Haley and his gang better get started now to make his bid.
Sorry Mitch---Bush wants Haley.

Posted by: AlLemon | February 22, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Right you are, buster5, as I said, I don't even have to revisit his incompetency in foisting the Iraq invasion on us - 50 bil my a**. Duhbya named him "My Man Mitch" because he reliably said "yes sir!" to every crackpot wingnut scheme that Cheney et al stuck in his face. And oh yeah he's made Wall Street happy, Goldman Sachs etc, investing that dough he made from selling the Indiana Toll Road! Cutting the budget by eliminating environmental enforcement and laying off truck safety inspectors sure helps too! Hey, you wouldn't happen to be a PR guy wouldja? And by the way, wherever you are, you probably didn't notice that the feckless Indiana DemoRats foisted the most dingbat gubernatorial candidate they could find in 2008, name of Jill Long Thompson. Whose only plus, as I've said since, was that she didn't marry a guy named Johnson. You maybe thought that Martha Coakley was one of the worst Democrat debacles of all time? You shoulda seen Thompson. I sure as heck didn't vote for her! The guy SHE beat in the primary coulda beat Lord Shorty. Daniels was NOT that popular. He was WIDELY despised, and still is. And Obama won Indiana DESPITE Dan Parker and those other nitwits at Indiana Dem HQ. They've never done diddley to co-opt all the Obama activists that won Indiana for them. If the Indiana Dem machine hadn't plopped Thompson on us, if they'd just gone with the guy who actually WANTED to win, instead of going on an ego trip like Thompson did, Not My Man would've been toast.

Posted by: garyxindiana | February 22, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Memo to joanne11 and abcs86: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MINDS?? "no ideologue"?? "open to other points of view"?? Other than the fact that he has to stand on a box when he's behind a podium, don't you know why he was dubbed "Lord Shorty"?? Because he's a caustic, megalomaniacal, monarchical little SOB of a Napoleonic complex. He's a neo-con, not a "conservative" in the classical sense. I can tell you right now that he's corrupt and believes that regulation and law enforcement do not apply to the country club and corporate elite. He's been mired in scandal from the IPALCO debacle to the fraud he perpetrated trying to bulldoze his "Indiana Commerce Connector" private toll road boondoggle through ours and neighboring counties, to his FSSA privatization debacle deal with IBM, etc. And TODAY he received a petition from me and 115 of my neighbors, telling him that his appointees have refused to enforce the law in a local public corruption scandal which has resulted in tens of thousands of property owners paying an illegal tax, among other things. Hell, I don't even need to talk about his participation in IraqScam, and all the other stuff he's learned from his old boss Duhbya, I can give you plenty of common sense Hoosier reasons why Mitch Daniels isn't even fit to hold office in an Indiana school board!

Posted by: garyxindiana | February 22, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

During the 29 months that Daniels served as director of OMB under Bush, the federal government went from having a $236 billion surplus to a $400 billion deficit. And he drastically "misunderestimated" the cost of the Iraq war.

Heck of a job, Mitch.

Posted by: HughBriss

Riiiiight. The deficits were MD's fault? He, as director of OMB, caused the tech bubble to burst and the economic fallout from 9/11? That is ludicrous. Also, check your facts: his Iraq war estimate was accurate given the timeframe in the request. And, in a state that was won by Obama, he cruised to reelection by 18 points (a pretty nice grade from the people that matter, i.e., voters). Most states envy Indiana's balance sheet which was running well in the red when Daniels took over but is safely in the black now with a AAA rating. It is better to judge him I his role as the top guy (Gov of Indiana), and not in his lesser role as director of OMB where he was not in charge of the final decisions (many of which he disagreed with).

Posted by: buster5 | February 22, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad he's considering it. He's had some success in Indiana by being open to other points of view, from what I understand. America needs someone to get off the rhetoric of the far left and the far right and to govern with reason. His partial acknowledgement that we have a fiscal problem is an encouraging sign, as is his not avoiding the fact that it will take a lot more than people expect to turn it around. The big abyss will be crossed if he acknowledges that even Republican spending priorities such as defense, unfunded mandates (i.e., prescription drug medicine), and incessant/unending tax cuts that primarily benefit rich people have to be subject to the same ax as the pet spending of the Democrats...

Posted by: abcs86 | February 22, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

During the 29 months that Daniels served as director of OMB under Bush, the federal government went from having a $236 billion surplus to a $400 billion deficit. And he drastically "misunderestimated" the cost of the Iraq war.

Heck of a job, Mitch.

Posted by: HughBriss | February 22, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

If it is George W. Bush's judgment that the man would make a good president, that should speak volumes as to his appropriateness for America! I wonder if he could also get the endorsements of Pol Pot, Henry Kissinger and a couple other genocidal actors to give him a good running start?

Posted by: B2O2 | February 22, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Very good, Governor Daniels.

Posted by: G418 | February 22, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Sorry...Wrong link. Here is the correct one:

Posted by: keepwastingmoney | February 22, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Check out this recent interview with Gov. Daniels on the podcast: (he's on in the second half of the show).

Sure sounds like he's running for President.

Posted by: keepwastingmoney | February 22, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I didn't vote for Mitch for governor when he originally ran for governor... the link to Bush was just too strong. However, what he did for our state in his first four years made me a believer. This guy is no idealogue, he just gets things done.

I was one of many who voted for both Daniels and Obama. If Obama is unable to turn things around in the next few years, and Daniels somehow becomes the Republican candidate, he will most definitely get my vote.

Posted by: joanne11 | February 22, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Mitch. You raised taxes. People who have actually held elected office position in which they had to actually govern are not very popular with the GOP base. Tough to measure up to the lofty rhetoric of Limbaugh/Beck.

Posted by: edwardlahoa | February 22, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

knjincvc wrote:

"'Daniels served as Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget'

So he can address how he and other Republicans created $11+ Trillion dollar debt and their plan to pay it back."

Amen to that, brother.

Had I wrecked the United States of America once already, I'd be a 'reluctant' candidate too.

Posted by: hogsmile | February 22, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

At least Daniels would be a fresh face among all the usual old cadavers.

Posted by: joneshn | February 22, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"Daniels served as Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget"

Sooo he can address how he and other republicans created $11+ Trillion dollar debt and their plan to pay it back.

Posted by: knjincvc | February 22, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing Democrats would like better than to have a GOP field lacking a single decisive leader and crowded with relative unknowns.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | February 22, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

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