Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana: Not Running for President

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 22, 2011   |   9:53AM   |   Indianapolis, IN

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels surprised the political world wit a surprise weekend announcement that he will not run for the Republican nomination for president after approximately a year of speculation he would run.

Saying his wife and daughters were not interested in being subjected to the media spotlight and attention that comes with a presidential campaign and potential life in the White House, Daniels said “I will not be a candidate,” in a statement he sent to the Indianapolis Star newspaper very lat Saturday night.

“What could have been a complicated decision was in the end very simple,” Daniels said in a statement to the Indianapolis Star.  “On matters affecting us all, our family constitution gives a veto to the women’s caucus, and there is no override provision. Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more.”

“The counsel and encouragement I received from important citizens like you caused me to think very deeply about becoming a national candidate. In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one, but that, the interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all. If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry,” he told supporters in an email afterwards.

Daniels is pro-life, but upset pro-life advocates repeatedly over the last year with a call for a truce on social issues like abortion. He said the next president needs to focus on the economy and, while he attempted to explain the truce as something for liberals who support abortion as well, it made pro-life voters wary of his potential campaign. Daniels appeared to have redeemed himself, at least somewhat in the minds of pro-life advocates, when he signed a key pro-life bill that de-funded Planned Parenthood in Indiana and also put several major pro-life policies in place.

There was some concern in political circles as to how Daniels would explain an awkward, but ultimately loving, portion of his private life during which his wife Cheri, in the 1990s, left Mitch and their four young daughters to marry another man. Cheri ultimately returned to Daniels — but the complexity of the decision and its potential impact on how voters would perceive Daniels cause some political observers to say he would be forced to address it on the campaign trail.

But, in a second statement Daniels sent to his hometown newspaper, he told the Star he wanted to set the record straight on what happened.

“It is important to correct some factually incorrect accounts about the time when our family was divided. When Cheri and I parted, the court agreed with my view that our daughters’ best interests would be served by their staying in Indiana. Cheri and I were granted joint custody. Within a short time, she purchased a residence just a few minutes from our house. Until we remarried, we shared custody fully, the girls dividing their time between the two homes,” he explained. “The notion that Cheri ever did or would “abandon” her girls or parental duty is the reverse of the truth and absurd to anyone who knows her, as I do, to be the best mother any daughter ever had.”

That Daniels would feel the need to issue a second statement about his family points to the concerns he had about having to answer reporters’ questions on the campaign trail and the desire his wife and daughters apparently had about subjecting themselves to the intensity of a presidential run. They also seem to have legitimately overshadowed any political concerns Daniels may have had about his positions on issues, such as the abortion truce, or other concerns potential candidates normally have about mounting a presidential bid.

Beyond Daniels’ decision, the question for many political observers is how it affects the Republican campaign. Although the current field includes many heavy hitters like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Tim Pawlenty — as well as newer faces like Herman Cain — some Republicans are still looking for a different candidate who has leaned against running to get in the race. Daniels was seen as that candidate by some Republicans who may now clamor for someone like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michelle Bachmann or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to jump in the race.

Others see the race as set and say that Republicans need to get over some of the issues they have with the current crop of candidates. Daniels’ decision may allow some Republicans to look at candidates like Pawlenty, who did not run in 2008 or is not seen as an old guard Republican like Gingrich. The decision may also open the door for Sarah Palin to enter the race — by making it so she has a smaller field to overcome on the way to the nomination.

Daniels’ decision against seeking the GOP nomination also takes some of the debate over abortion out of the race — as none of the other candidates running have embraced his social issues truce. Haley Barbour originally flirted with it before ultimately rejecting it, but the Mississippi governor has decided against running. Pawlenty and Santorum rejected it as did Mike Huckabee, but he decided against a campaign as well. The focus can now be placed squarely on pro-abortion President Barack Obama, who has racked up such a strong pro-abortion record that some pro-life voters are ready to support any of the pro-life Republican candidates against him in 2012.