Coy Candidate: Is 2012 Mitch Daniels’ Moment? (The Note)

May 13, 2011 8:49am


Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is beyond coy about his potential presidential ambitions — he’s downright reluctant.

In an interview back in February he spoke about the pressure he was getting from fellow Republicans trying to goad him into running for the nation’s highest office. "Just to get them off my back,” Daniels said, “I agreed to a number of people that I will now stay open to the idea.”

Fast forward to today, and it’s almost as if his thinking hasn’t changed one bit (although we suspect it has).

“I think someone who presents a positive and specific alternative to what I think are catastrophic economic policies,” of the Obama administration, Daniels said at an event earlier this week, “would get respectful listens from Americans and have a chance. Maybe I could do that maybe someone else could do it better.”

And last night, at a dinner for the Indiana Republican Party, Daniels told a crowd, who at one point erupted into cheers of “Run, Mitch, Run!” that “I’m not saying I won’t do it.” (He didn’t say he would either.)

“We owe the people an answer,” he told reporters after last night’s event in Indianapolis where his wife, Cheri Daniels, delivered a much-anticipated keynote address. “If we're going to do it, we have to get on the road to do it.”

It’s clear that the pressure on Daniels from top Republicans remains hot and heavy. This morning CBS News’ Jan Crawford reported that should Daniels decide to run he would have in his arsenal the support of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other key GOP governors and that former First Lady Laura Bush has personally called Mrs. Daniels “to encourage her to support the effort and offer advice on how to define what her role on the campaign — and potentially in the White House — would be.”  

“He’s certainly somebody who I have enormous respect for and would give real consideration to supporting,” Gov. Christie said in a radio interview on Monday. Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella told ABC News that reports the governor was throwing his support behind Daniels were "entirely too premature."

"As the Governor has said many times publicly," she said, "he hasn’t even made a decision as to whether or not he is going to endorse, let alone whom."

But, for all the encouragement Daniels is getting to get into the 2012 mix, he's far from the perfect candidate.

First — and most important — is his outward hesitancy for the campaign. While there's been lots of speculation about whether his apparent lack of “fire in the belly” simply reflects humility or deep-seeded reservations about the job, the bottom line is that a reluctant candidate is rarely a successful candidate. Daniels has been in the business long enough to know just what kind of sacrifices need to be made to do this. And, voters want the candidates to be 100 percent committed too — and can smell it when they aren't.

Second, while he's got an impressive record to boast about in Indiana, it's far from unblemished. His GOP opponents will hit him on raising taxes. Democrats will be happy to have him defend his time as director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush when deficits soared.

But, there are plenty of Republicans — and newspaper columnists — who want to see him jump into the ring. Their interest in him says as much about their feelings about the rest of the field as it does about him. Still, it's easy to see how his no-nonsense, no pandering approach could have broad appeal to voters fed up with Washington's ideological battles. When talking about Daniels, the word most often used to describe him is “adult.”

NOTABLE: CHERI DANIELS' COMING OUT PARTY: In a closely-watched speech, Indiana First Lady Cheri Daniels last night revealed her expertise milking cows, her favorite country music singer (Keith Urban), and one of her nicknames — “pig whisperer.” What she did not do, however, is engage in speculation about her husband’s possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination even though she is thought to wield significant influence over Gov. Mitch Daniels’ decision. “I truly appreciate the encouragement you have given Mitch,” she said. Mrs. Daniels’ rocky marital history with her husband has come under intense scrutiny as Gov. Daniels nears his decision on a presidential run.  The couple married in 1978 and divorced in 1993 when Mrs. Daniels left him and their four daughters to marry another man in California. They eventually reconciled and were remarried in 1997. Mrs. Daniels, who took the stage to the 1960’s tune, “Sherry,” which she said was one of her favorite songs, served up little political red meat  but a lot of humor during her remarks, weaving in video clips of herself taking top honors for cow milking at the Indiana State Fair. “I think this speaks for itself,” Mrs. Daniels said, warming up the crowd, “but I am an honorary Hooters girl.”

ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: RON PAUL JUMPS IN. Ron Paul made it official this morning, announcing on "Good Morning America" that he is running for President one more time. “I am officially announcing that I am a candidate for president in the Republican primary,” he said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“I believe right now coming in number one in the Republican primary is an absolute possibility, many, many times better than it was four years ago,” Paul told Stephanopoulos. “Our troops, our supporters, the grassroots are enthusiastic — more so than they ever were.”

This will be the third time out for Paul. He first ran as a Libertarian in 1988, then 20 years later as a Republican. Now he’s the second Republican this week to formally announce, following on the heels of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “Time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I’ve been saying for 30 years, so I think the time is right," he said. Paul has ground to make-up. In last month’s ABC News-Washington Post poll only 2 percent backed him compared to 16 percent for Mitt Romney and 6 percent for Mike Huckabee. The congressman and obstetrician — whose son is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul – is well known for his stance against the Federal Reserve and has taken controversial positions such as legalizing heroine or recently saying that he would not have ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden.

A retrospective: Ron Paul through the years:  


NEWT SPEAKS: DEMOCRATS CAMPAIGNING ON ‘LOSING THE FUTURE.’ ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports that newly-minted presidential candidate Newt Gingrich laid his “Jobs and Prosperity Plan” this morning in Washington, D.C., touting his experience as Speaker of the House during the 1990’s and his work with the Reagan administration’s economic team as key indicators of his ability to carry out economic change. “My campaign theme is going to be together we can win the future,” Gingrich said this morning. “The other team doesn't know it but they're going to be campaigning on losing the future — the wrong policies lead to the wrong results.” The former speaker of the House, who presented the country with the Contract with America in 1994, has crafted an economic plan that aims to stop the 2013 tax increases, create incentives like tax cuts to stimulate greater business investment in the U.S., and shift to an optional 15 percent flat tax for Americans by filing their taxes on a postcard. His plan also aims to repeal and replace the health care reform law signed by President Obama , strengthen the U.S. dollar, strip regulations, programs and bureaucracies impeding job creation, and implement an American energy policy. “The left understands how to actually destroy the American economy,” he said. Gingrich also promised to balance the federal budget and reform entitlement programs — two initiatives he conquered during his time as speaker of the House.  “We’ve done it before, we can do it again,” Gingrich said. Later today, at the Georgia Republican Party’s annual convention in Macon, Ga.  Gingrich plans to deliver his first political address since announcing his candidacy for president this week.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Setti Warren, the Mayor of Newton, Mass., who announced this week that he is running for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s seat. Also on the program, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



BIN LADEN WANTED TO KILL OBAMA. “U.S. officials are analyzing one million pages of data from the trove found in Osama bin Laden's compound during the raid that killed him, and say they have learned more in the past ten days than in the past 10 years,” ABC’s Brian Ross, Megan Chuchmach and Martha Raddatz report. “Among the things they've learned is that the al Qaeda leader wanted to find a way to kill President Obama. Meanwhile, the first revenge attack for the bin Laden raid has killed 80 outside a military training center in Pakistan, and President Obama has acknowledged that threats against his own grandmother from another al Qaeda group are being closely monitored.”

BUSH TO OBAMA ON ORDERING BIN LADEN RAID: ‘GOOD CALL.’ “Former President George W. Bush made his first candid public comments on the killing of Osama bin Laden during an appearance Wednesday at a conference of hedge fund managers in Las Vegas,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports. “‘I was eating souffle at Rise Restaurant with Laura and two buddies,’ Bush said when asked what he was doing when he received the call from President Obama, according to an ABC News contributor who attended the event. ‘I excused myself and went home to take the call,’ Bush said. ‘Obama simply said 'Osama Bin Laden is dead.' Bush said Obama described in detail the secret mission to raid bin Laden's Pakistani compound and the decision he made to put the plan into motion. He told Obama, ‘Good call.’ … But appearing before the crowd of 1,800 at the glitzy Bellagio resort and casino, Bush appeared light-hearted and relaxed in talking about bin Laden's death. When asked by forum moderator Melissa Lee of CNBC how he felt upon learning the news, Bush said he was ‘not overjoyed,’ explaining that the campaign to track down the 9/11 mastermind was done not ‘out of hatred but to exact judgment.’ The development is ultimately a victory for the American people, he said. ‘The guy is dead. That is good,’ Bush said of bin Laden. ‘Osama's death is a great victory in the war on terror. He was held up as a leader.’ ‘The intelligence services deserve a lot of credit. They built a mosaic of information, piece by piece,’ he said, claiming no credit for himself.”

PAWLENTY’S MONEY MUSCLE. “Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty remains little-known beyond his home state, but he has begun to line up wealthy donors, a critical constituency,” The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick O’Connor writes. “Even as he draws low single-digit support in early polls, Mr. Pawlenty has amassed a substantial roster of well-connected GOP donors and fund-raisers in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. Their preference for Mr. Pawlenty could pose a challenge to his GOP rival, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has used experience as a 2008 candidate and background as a private-equity investor to build what is widely regarded as the largest network of high-impact fund-raisers in the 2012 contest. It also illustrates the ambivalence among elite GOP donors over which Republican is best suited to face President Barack Obama next year. Mr. Pawlenty's backers include Bob Perry, the Texas home builder who gave more money than any GOP donor to conservative groups like American Crossroads, which spent heavily in the 2010 election, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which was active in the 2004 campaign. In 2008, Mr. Perry supported Mr. Romney. … The Pawlenty campaign held its biggest fund-raiser to date in Dallas on Tuesday at the home of Tom Hicks, the private-equity and sports investor, who once owned the Texas Rangers baseball team.”

INVESTORS SOUR ON GOP. “Global investors, by an almost 2-to-1 majority, believe the U.S. government won’t be able to substantially cut its budget deficit without raising taxes, rejecting a core stand of congressional Republicans,” Bloomberg’s Mike Dorning and David J. Lynch report. “Investors are also pessimistic about prospects for a deal to cut the federal deficit, a Bloomberg survey found. Almost 6 out of 10 doubt President Barack Obama and Republicans will reach an agreement by the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, according to a quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll of 1,263 investors, traders and analysts who are Bloomberg subscribers. … Even with pessimism over a long-term deal, more than 7 of 10 poll respondents are confident Congress will raise the $14.29 trillion debt limit and stave off a default on U.S. obligations.”

MCCONNELL DEMANDS ‘SIGNIFICANT’ SPENDING CUTS. “After yesterday’s meeting with President Obama at the White House, the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell returned to Capitol Hill to outline what it will take for him to agree to the administration’s request to raise the debt ceiling,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes. “McConnell, R-KY, said it would take ‘significant’ changes in short-term, medium-term, and long-term spending. ‘To get my vote to raise the debt ceiling, it will require doing something in the short term. And to give you an example of something that I think could begin to get my vote, is to set the 302 A — that is, how much are we going to spend in our discretionary budget for the next two years — and continue to move that downward, so that we are actually reducing spending in the short term,’ McConnell said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.”

A TRUMP IN NAME ONLY? “For many middle-class Americans, it is the most coveted brand in real estate, synonymous with sky-piercing luxury and can’t-miss quality: Donald J. Trump. … But as Mr. Trump, who is weighing a bid for the White House, has zealously sought to cash in on his name, he has entered into arrangements that home buyers describe as deliberately deceptive — designed, they said, to exploit the very thing that drew them to his buildings: their faith in him,” The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro writes. “Over the last few years, according to interviews and hundreds of pages of court documents, the real estate mogul has aggressively marketed several luxury high-rises as ‘Trump properties’ or ‘signature Trump’ buildings, with names like Trump Tower and Trump International — even making appearances at the properties to woo buyers. … But when three of the planned buildings encountered financial trouble, it became clear that Mr. Trump had essentially rented his name to the developments and had no responsibility for their outcomes, according to buyers. In each case, he yanked his name off the projects, which were never completed. The buyers lost millions of dollars in deposits even as Mr. Trump pocketed hefty license fees. Those who bought the apartments in part because of the Trump name were livid, saying they felt a profound sense of betrayal, and more than 300 of them are now suing Mr. Trump or his company.”



@RepPeteKing: Leaving CIA headquarters, saw bin Laden photos, he is definitely dead. Thank God.

@ByronYork: Romney sources say different time requires different strategy — cite secret plan.

@ErinMcPike: My story about Mitch + Cheri Daniels from Indy yesterday: You've seen that he'd like to tap Condi for veep #GOP12

@ArletteSaenz: Gingrich: Despite all the current fights in Congress..I don't think its possible to balance the budget at 9% unemployment.

@MPOTheHill: In which Mike Huckabee jams to "Sweet Home Alabama" with Lynyrd Skynyrd:



* Newt Gingrich will address the Georgia Republican's annual convention in Macon, Georgia tonight. This morning he delivered his “Jobs and Prosperity Plan” at a speech in Washington, DC.

* Rudy Giuliani speaks at the Region One conference of the International Association of Emergency Managers in Nashua, NH.

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