Daniels Closer to 2012 Bid, But Has He Overcome Abortion Truce?

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 13, 2011   |   10:51AM   |   Indianapolis, IN

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels appears closer than ever to indicating he will seek the Republican nomination for president, but, for pro-life voters, one key question remains about his talk of an abortion truce.

Last night, Daniels appeared at a campaign-style rally with more than 1,000 people changing, “Run Mitch, Run,” and holding signs and placards with the same message. With family considerations causing Haley Barbour, the Mississippi governor and Daniel’s friend, to decide against mounting a presidential campaign, Daniels turned the microphone over to his wife Cheri and let her give a speech on his behalf.

“I truly appreciate the encouragement you have given Mitch,” she said.

The question of course was whether her appearance lent any credence to the suggestion that Daniels would likely run for president. The governor himself answered the question in part, saying, “This whole business of running for national office–I’m not saying I won’t do it” — which registered loud applause.

“It’s closer to a decision. We owe the people and answer. If we’re going to do it, we have to get on the road to do it,” Daniels told reporters after the event, according to CBS News.

Should he decide to run, CBS indicates key conservative governors who have drawn the respect of pro-life voters have pledged they will support him — including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Barbour would very likely endorse his friend as well and bring with him an extensive network of Republican contacts and donors.

Meanwhile, CBS also indicates  former First Lady Laura Bush has called Cheri Daniels personally to encourage her and her husband to consider a presidential bid.

Daniels has a pro-life record as governor that would add him to the list of other pro-life candidates worthy of support from the majority of Americans who oppose abortion and President Barack Obama’s extensive pro-abortion record. But his talk of a truce on social issues like abortion earned him the ire of pro-life stalwarts and his subsequent defenses of the truce did nothing to endear him to a great many conservatives in states like Iowa and South Carolina.

Yet, his signing of a bill that makes Indiana the first state in the nation to revoke Medicaid taxpayer funding of the Planned Parenthood abortion business may erase any doubts or concerns pro-life voters have about what he would do as president.

Joseph Lawler of the American Spectator says he thinks that’s the case.

“Now that Daniels has signed a bill that will have the effect of prohibiting Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds, it should be clearer what the truce would entail,” he writes. “If a truce on social issues meant that Daniels wouldn’t endorse any far-reaching legislation on social issues, he wouldn’t have signed the bill  — as many people speculated he wouldn’t. But he did, and the bill represents as big an achievement, in terms of socially conservative legislation, as any 2012 contender could boast.”

“With the law in place, it seems clear that the truce never meant anything more than a softening of rhetoric on social issues and a relative prioritization of fiscal issues. In a way, the episode demonstrates the potential wisdom of that approach,” Lawler continues. “While Daniels did not push for the bill and even suggested that he didn’t want it to get in the way of other state business, he can still take credit for it. His popularity as governor and his success in picking candidates and fundraising led to the GOP expanding its majority in the state senate and increasing the number of Republican representatives in the house from a minority to a 60-40 majority. Granted, 2010 was a wave election for Republicans, but it’s not at all certain that Republicans would have had the numbers and political capital that they have now if Daniels’s governorship had not been so successful up to that point.”

“In other words, would a stridently socially conservative politician like Rick Santorum, or even Mike Pence (who will probably be the next governor of Indiana), have put himself in a position to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood?” Lawler concludes. “It’s hard to get excited about a truce. But if it’s part of a larger strategy that has led to the enactment of actual pro-life legislation, it deserves consideration. After all, it’s much hard to govern successfully and build political coalitions than it is to bash President Obama on social issues or make grand but unrealistic promises about the future.”

Keith Liscio of the Conservative Examiner appears to agree.

“When Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill this week to strip taxpayer funding from abortion provider Planned Parenthood in his state, it provided terrific context to his comments about a potential “truce” on legislating social issues,” he writes. “Daniels’ actions as governor in Indiana should, however, help to dispel the overheated rhetoric from politicians on the right seeking to gain political advantage. On issue after issue, from abortion to education, Daniels has demonstrated through deed if not word that he is solidly pro-life and pro-family.”

“Mitch Daniels has not decided to run for president yet and may never decide to do so.  Given his performance in Indiana, however, if this is his idea of a truce, progressives should hope he never declares war on social issues as President,” Liscio concludes.

The question of whether Daniels has satisfied critics of the truce will probably come up again and again if he decides to enter the Republican presidential race. His actions signing the Planned Parenthood de-funding bill go a long way in earning him back some of the trust he’s lost with pro-life voters as actions do speak louder than words. But, should he run, clarifying what he would do as president would complete the task of ensuring pro-life advocates he is someone they can trust. Without a specific policy agenda on the table of how he would turn back Obama’s abortion agenda and appoint judges who respect the rule of law, some misgivings will likely continue.