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Mitch Daniels Won’t Run in 2012

Mitch Daniels, the candidate of George Will and a host of mainstream Republicans hoping for something better in 2012, has announced he will not be running for president in 2012.

Chris Cillizza, Washington Post (“Mitch Daniels won’t run for president in 2012“):

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels won’t seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a decision that could well throw the field open to other late entrants.

“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,” Daniels said in a statement emailed to supporters early Sunday morning. “If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry.”

Daniels’ decision not to run ends months of public speculation about his interest in the race in which he went from entirely uninterested to a man on the verge of a national bid.

And, it almost certainly means that an already wide-open race for the GOP nomination in 2012 will become even more so in the coming weeks.

Of late, there seemed to be a sort of rallying around Daniels from the political establishment with people like House Speaker John Boehnerand New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praising his record as governor. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a one-time 2012 aspirant himself, urged Daniels to make the race.

Daniels’ appeal was as a sober voice of reason in a party that had been dominated by sideshows — like the potential candidacy of businessmanDonald Trump — in the early days of the 2012 election.

A former head of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, Daniels ran for (and won) the Indiana governorship in 2004 by running as a straight-talking populist. He was re-elected four years later despite the fact that President Obama carried the Hoosier State.

Even as the presidential speculation reached a fever pitch, however, Daniels remained a a man divided. His family — his wife, Cheri, and his their four daughters — were publicly opposed to the race.

And, as he more seriously considered the contest, Daniels’ personal life took center stage — in particular the fact that he and his wife had divorced in the 1990s only to remarry years later.

In the end, those family concerns seemed to trump the encouragement Daniels was receiving from within the GOP. Daniels is the third GOP candidate to bow out of the race in the past eight days. Trump as well as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said no to the contest during that time frame.

With Daniels now out of the running, there is likely to be a renewed effort by some to encourage the likes of Christie, who has risen to national prominence thanks to his tough-talking style in New Jersey, to reconsider his past refusals to run.

Other potential candidates, too, may look at the race again — sensing the same opportunity that Daniels did for a message focused on debt and spending.

Matt Tully of the Indianapolis Star isn’t surprised.

Can you blame him?

That’s the first thought I had when two of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ closest advisers walked into The Indianapolis Star on Saturday night and announced, in the most melancholy way possible, that their man Mitch would not run for president.

They handed a few of us a five-paragraph statement, closing the door on a 2012 campaign — a statement personally written by Daniels and dripping with the sentiment of a man who desperately wanted to mix it up on the national stage. More than half of it, in fact, focused on issues he’d like to see addressed by presidential candidates. As Mark Lubbers, one of the advisers and one of Daniels’ oldest friends, said: “He wanted to do it.”

But, Lubbers added, Daniels is a veteran of two White Houses. From that vantage point, “he’s seen what it does to the person and the family.” And the statement Daniels had released Saturday to The Star insisted the decision came down to, as many had long predicted it would, his family’s resistance to a White House campaign.

“Simply put,” Daniels wrote, “I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more.” The women in his life, he said, referring to his wife and daughters, vetoed the idea of a run, “and there is no override provision.”

[...]

Still, it has to be a bitter pill.

His would have been an intriguing campaign and, as many politicos nationwide have said recently, and he would have added another much-needed adult voice to the 2012 conversation. As with anyone running for president, the odds would have been against him. Most people who run for the office, after all, don’t win. But the political landscape was laid out in Daniels’ favor — with a stunningly weak Republican field and an increased public concern about government spending, his core issue. Top GOP fundraisers and operatives have waited on the sidelines, hoping Daniels would enter the contest.

[...]

Outside Indiana, numerous top Democrats and Republicans have suggested in recent months that Daniels would be the Republican best suited to face President Barack Obama in the 2012 general election. In Indiana, Daniels has won strong support from independents and even Democrats who appreciate his willingness to tackle tough issues, even if they disagree with many of his policies.

He had a chance. But it would have been ugly. Presidential campaigns almost always are.

In recent weeks, attention had turned to the complicated history between the governor and first lady Cheri Daniels, which included a divorce and remarriage in the 1990s. The governor was clearly sensitive to the criticism of his wife, who had largely avoided the public spotlight. He provided a second statement Saturday insisting she had been involved in their young daughters’ lives while married to another man in the 1990s.

Regardless, this is 2011, and the political atmosphere in the heat of the national campaign will be nothing short of toxic. Partisans on both sides of the aisle and heavily funded political organizations do not blink at the idea of seizing any opportunity to attack a political rival. I thought about that recently after writing a column on Cheri Daniels’ speech to a group of Republicans. My voicemail the next day was filled with furious comments, and it would have gotten worse.

Moreover, Lubbers said, Daniels’ wife and daughters worried about security concerns and the life of a presidential family.

“You live in a fishbowl forever,” he said.

Indeed, sometime around the release of his statement announcing he wasn’t running, he released a statement about rumors surrounding his marriage:

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.

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.

I haven’t paid enough attention to Mitch Daniels to know whether he’d make a good president but it would have been nice to see him make his case. But, under the circumstances, I can understand why it wasn’t worth it to him.

It’s long been cliché that the process drives out all the good candidates and that anyone who would willingly subject himself and his family to their process has proven he shouldn’t be president. Neither are quite true. We continue to get outstanding people to run for high office every cycle. But it’s surely true that we run off a large number of people who would otherwise like to serve and be good at it.

I haven’t the foggiest idea what to do about it. The cost of limiting free speech–let alone political speech–would be much higher than we’re paying in weakened fields. I’ve hoped for a while that the constant media saturation with scandals real and imagined would run its course, either by people losing interest in the constant gossip or simply coming to realize the quirkiness of the human experience and raising the bar on what they consider scandalous.Thus far, alas, it hasn’t happened.

Maybe we’ll come to the point, as our European cousins did long ago, where we stop expecting our political leaders to also serve as spiritual leaders. While personal foibles naturally color our judgment of a candidate’s character and fitness for office, and some conduct is sufficiently odious to be a disqualifier, the notion that every detail of their life –from longago bumps in their marriage to what kind of mustard they like–is our business is counterproductive.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. The Fury says:

    Is this an early prediction? Mitch Daniels already won? lol

    Ahhhh, early morning blogging and typos. :)

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  2. John Peabody says:

    Won’, won’, won’, da doo won’ won’!

    A shame, but better to drop now than a year from now.

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  3. Axel Edgren says:

    Sorry, Mitch. Not nearly unintelligent, hateful and ideological enough.

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  4. Lit3Bolt says:

    Maybe we’ll come to the point, as our European cousins did long ago, where we stop expecting our political leaders to also serve as spiritual leaders.

    That’s a great quote. You should keep that one, because it gets to the heart of a lot what’s unappealing about politics and the “culture wars” in America.

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  5. Disappointing, but not surprising given the reluctance we’ve seen coming from the Daniels camp for weeks now,

    The GOP field is looking fairly pathetic now, mostly because the people who can win the General Election are going to have a tough time getting through the primary and the people who can win the primaries cannot win the General

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  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Smart man.

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  7. Dave

    As I asked yesterday, why would any sane person run for President?

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  8. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares who the Republicans nominate? Does anyone who faces the facts believe that President Obama will lose? What states carried by Gore, Kerry, and Obama would Daniels have possibly won? Would one more black, Hispanic, homosexual, Jewish, public sector, or academic voter who voted for McCain in 2008 have voted for Daniels in 2012?

    People just need to realize that the Republican Party is irrelevant and has zero chance of winning a presidential election.

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  9. Hey Norm says:

    “I wanted to be President, the most powerful man in the world, but my wife wouldn’t let me.”
    Sounds like he came up a little…short…

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  10. Mr. Prosser says:

    I don’t think voters are looking for spiritual leaders so much as they are expecting a certain level of social conscience. The average voter can filter a run-of -the-mill divorce from criminality and sociopathic tendencies. A hard background investigation is good, the malicious blather which passes for research (and often covers over real transgressions) today is not. The same goes for voting records and past statements. They count and they should be and every candidate must answer for past political actions.

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  11. Southern Hoosier says:

    One less candidate to divide the public attention.

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  12. Axel Edgren says:

    People just need to realize that the Republican Party is irrelevant and has zero chance of winning a presidential election.

    That’s too optimistic. Any republican might have poor macroeconomic indicators helping them greatly in 2012.

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  13. Southern Hoosier says:

    People just need to realize that the Republican Party is irrelevant and has zero chance of winning a presidential election.

    I agree. The Democrats shouldn’t be wasting their time raising money. There is no point in wasting money on campaigning and TV ads. People are so happy with the housing market, employment, the economy, the wars in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, that they will just sweep all those Democrats back in office. It will be like the 2010 election never happened.

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  14. Hey Norm says:

    I think a party whose only real positions are tax cuts for the rich, institutionalizing torture, and uterus control, is pretty irrelevant. But macroeconomics may very well land them in office…no matter how incapable of governing they may be.
    So yeah…you’re both right.

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  15. legion says:

    Apparently, Repub politicians aren’t nearly as gullible as Repub voters…

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  16. superdestroyer says:

    Southern Hoosier,

    The Democrats know that they will win ever state that was carried by Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Obama in 2008 without spending a dollar. The Democrats will carry California by over 1,000,000 votes without spending a dollar or President Obama making an appearance.

    The funding raising is all about getting control of the House. That is why the Democrats are raising money. The President Election is already decided and the next relevant election will be the New Hampshire primary in 2016.

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  17. Hey Norm says:

    @legion…
    Well yeah…republican voters have been convinced for years that they are voting for fiscal responsibility and national security…when the record shows the exact opposite. So I think gullible is being generous.

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  18. Pug says:

    So G.W. Bush’s budget director isn’t going to make a run. So what?

    Heck of job, Mitchie.

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  19. michael reynolds says:

    I thought the wife thing might stop him. That plus his physically diminutive stature. A tiny cuckold was never going to be elected.

    None of that should matter, but there’s what should be and there’s what is.

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  20. TG Chicago says:

    Did he say anything to rule out a potential VP slot? While Romney would probably want a full-tilt social conservative as a nod to the base, I could see one of the wilder candidates take him as #2 in order to make the ticket seem a bit saner.

    And his height could actually be a bonus as a VP nominee, as it would make the Presidential nominee look taller.

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  21. Tano says:

    I actually found it quite odd the way he is making it very clear that he wanted to run, and blaming it on his wife. Not classy at all. I imagine if I were in his position, once I made my decision, I would take full public ownership of the decision, and absolutely shield my family from any public disclosure of their input into the decision.
    This makes me respect the man a whole lot less.

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  22. Neil Hudelson says:

    Did he say anything to rule out a potential VP slot?

    It looks like the biggest factor was his wife and children. While they wouldn’t be involved as much in a VP run, I believe they are very much adamantly opposed to him being so heavily in the public spotlight.

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  23. Have a nice G.A. says:

    I thought the wife thing might stop him. That plus his physically diminutive stature. A tiny cuckold was never going to be elected.

    lol even I would not have gone that far, Impressive Harry:)

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  24. Liberty60 says:

    He was probably worried that opposition researchers would discover an old quote of his where by he admitted openly to believing the world was round, and that species evolve.

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  25. Rock says:

    I predict that Obama easily will win 52 of the 57 states by a wide margin. The votes of the other 5 states won’t be allowed because voter ID was required.

    The Republicans and conservatives should not run a candidate for president or either house of congress. They should just stay home and stand back and watch as the Libtards bring things crashing down around our ears.

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  26. Hey Norm says:

    Rock,
    The republicans took a great budget situation and destroyed it. They handed off a job market shedding 600,000 jobs a month. They started two wars they didn’t finish and didn’t pay for. They expanded Medicare entitlements without paying for them. And they passed, by reconciliation, tax cuts without offsetting them with spending cuts. These tax cuts are by far the biggest driver of future debt…nothing else comes close. So I don’t know what you think the “libtards” are going to bring crashing down around your ears… because to date most of the time has been spent cleaning up messes.

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  27. Southern Hoosier says:

    superdestroyer says: Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 10:56

    The President Election is already decided

    Obama’s reelection campaign could hit billion-dollar mark

    http://goo.gl/cllTb
    Yeah Comrade Obama’s reelection is a done deal. The only question is what does he need a billion dollars for? He sure is going to owe a lot of favors for a lot of money he doesn’t need.

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  28. wr says:

    “I predict that Obama easily will win 52 of the 57 states by a wide margin. The votes of the other 5 states won’t be allowed because voter ID was required.”

    And in the end, this is all the Rocks and Jay Teas and jwests will have to comfort themselves with — one silly misstatement made in the heat of a campaign, and more lies about imaginary voter fraud. So much for the Republican party.

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  29. Terrye says:

    Too bad. Daniels has been a good Governor here in Indiana. I would like to have seen him give it a chance. He is a serious person, not just some self serving narcissist.

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  30. [...] Daniels’ decision to forgo the presidential race is personally understandable and even laudable: His wife and four [...]

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  31. Mike Farrell says:

    Thus by Mataconis logic Obama is not sane-perhaps that explains his demands that Israel commit suicide by having a 12 mile border

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  32. Rick Almeida says:

    Thus by Mataconis logic Obama is not sane-perhaps that explains his demands that Israel commit suicide by having a 12 mile border

    Methinks most countries have longer borders, and yet they endure.

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  33. Mike Farrell says:

    Most countries do not have sworn enemies who do not recognize a right to existence and want to drive them into the sea and in the meantime lob rockets into villages and schools.

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  34. Pug says:

    These tax cuts are by far the biggest driver of future debt…nothing else comes close.

    Well, that’s untrue in that the massive recession handed off by the Bush administration does come close as a driver of the budget deficits.

    …perhaps that explains his demands that Israel commit suicide by having a 12 mile border.

    Go for hyperbole much, Mike? That statement is almost Gingrichian in its over the top stupidity.

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  35. anjin-san says:

    And in the end, this is all the Rocks and Jay Teas and jwests will have to comfort themselves with

    Careful wr, they may bring out their varsity. You know, bithead. Then you will be in trouble. :)

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  36. Mike Farrell says:

    That is a quote from Dick Morris Pug-your anti-semitism, caused by Obama right or wrong, is so blatant.

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  37. Mike Farrell says:

    Oh and BTW here is what the web thinks of Mataconis

    “Doug Mataconis has long been a bitter, mean-spirited troll of all good and decent reformers within the GOP, and his deranged hatred for conservatives has diminished his mental faculties to the point that he’ll believe any lie that comes down, as long as it’s nasty about conservatives. But, what do we expect from a guy whose personal web page has become an obsessive shrine to Ron Paul?

    The whole article which exposes the roots of Mataconis PDS is at
    http://www.redstate.com/neil_stevens/2011/04/08/of-a-certain-mississippi-poll-on-marriage-and-of-those-who-make-hay-of-it/

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  38. [...] Joyner makes a pretty restrained version of a point I’m sure we’ll be seeing from other pundits once they’ve passed [...]

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  39. Barry says:

    Adding onto Pug’s statement – James, you know that Mitch would be a terrible president, because (a) he was Bush’s budget fraudmeister, and (b) because the GOP will only produce terrible presidents, because they’ve found out that it works. They enjoyed an 8 year looting spree, and still have made a partial comeback, *because* they trashed the place.

    The people running it are looters, parasites and destroyers to a man, and most of the people voting for it will watch what they do, and ask for more.

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  40. Ben Wolf says:

    Maybe we’ll come to the point, as our European cousins did long ago, where we stop expecting our political leaders to also serve as spiritual leaders.

    Democrats have no problem nominating someone less than saintly for the presidency. Republicans have a major problem with subjecting people to the third degree treatment. Their the ones who mercilessly hounded Bill Clinton for not living up to their hypocritical moral standards, and they just make stuff up so they can have an excuse to obssessively hate Barak Obama.

    Your party is seriously dysfunctional James, and trying to pass it off as something that “both sides do” is just more enabling. Get yout party’s house in order.

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  41. James Joyner says:

    @Ben Wolf: In terms of voters, it’s slightly more of a problem for Republicans because its base is more religious and the platform is more socially conservative. But we’re talking here about the media onslaught, which is bipartisan.

    Gary Hart is the most obvious case of a Democratic candidate getting ruined by this sort of thing. Yes, Bill Clinton survived a lot of it. But recall that he made a big deal about not having inhaled marijuana and the Jennifer Flowers thing almost derailed him in the primaries until he got a major assist from “60 Minutes.”

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