Indiana First Lady, 'Honorary Hooters Girl' Cheri Daniels Complicates 2012 Presidential Race

Wives such as 'pig whisperer' Daniels take center stage in White House run.

ByABC News
May 12, 2011, 2:13 PM

May 13, 2011 -- Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether he will run for president, and all eyes Thursday night were on his wife, Cheri, for clues.

Cheri Daniels spoke about her cow-milking expertise and preference for the music of country singer Keith Urban, but offered no hints about her husband's plans. At a state Republican Party fundraiser, Indiana's first lady even told the audience that one of her nicknames was "pig whisperer" and that she calls herself an "honorary Hooters girl."

Mitch Daniels, the motorcycle-riding darling of the Republican Party, is apparently interested in challenging President Obama in 2012 but has yet to convince his wife it's the right decision.

"It's no secret that family comes first with me," Mitch Daniels said. "This is a not a mountain you jump off of by yourself."

Cheri Daniels, a lifelong Hoosier and granddaughter of baseball Hall of Famer Billy Herman, has given few speeches as Indiana's first lady and famously dislikes politics. Yet that didn't stop her from marrying a politician.

"He was very funny," she said. "I think I'm very attracted to people with a sense of humor. The rest is history."

The couple's history is complicated. After 15 years of marriage, Cheri Daniels left her husband and their four young daughters for another man in 1993. Three years later, she came back, the family reunited and the two remarried in 1997. It is a chapter the couple rarely discuss publicly.

"If you like happy endings, you'll love our story," the Indiana governor told The Indianapolis Star in 2004. "Love and the love of children overcame any problems."

In a 2009 interview with the Associated Press, Daniels, 62, lamented the microscope that families come under on the campaign trail.

"The level of not just scrutiny but savagery ... that has attached itself to national politics is pretty sobering," Daniels said. "I mean, we've not just seen people's own personal backgrounds but their spouses and even their children get dragged into this."

Daniels isn't the only presidential hopeful whose complicated past will be put under the microscope. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who announced his presidential candidacy Thursday via Twitter, has been married three times. Gingrich left his first wife while she was battling cancer, and then left his second wife shortly after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

His latest wife, Callista, is expected to be front and center in his run for the White House. Friends describe the couple as getting a "nontraditional start." Callista Bisek was Gingrich's longtime mistress before he made her wife No. 3.

Gone are the days of John F. Kennedy, whose marital indiscretions were known by the media but not reported.

This new crop of presidential partners may take a cue from the Reagan playbook, hoping that a great love story, no matter how complicated, can transcend all, even the lion's den of a presidential race.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.