Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) says he's testing the waters for 2012, but he's clearly not convinced yet it would be the right move.
He has expressed misgivings about exposing his family to the scrutiny of a White House bid. He has already drawn the ire of some social conservatives for calling for a "truce" on social issues. Daniels, a "pro-life conservative," explains that it's about prioritization.
And today, there was this in the Northwest Indiana Times, based on an interview with a Chicago radio station:
"Addressing speculation he may be seeking a run at the White House himself, Daniels said, 'I wouldn't hold your breath for that.'
"'We're thinking about it,' he said. 'A lot of people have asked me to think about it, so we will.'"
Daniels is slated to address the Conservative Political Action Conference Feb. 10 here, but at least one conservative group is vexed by CPAC's decision to invite him to speak.
The American Principles Project -- which protested CPAC's invitation of conservative-leaning gay-rights group GOProud -- wrote the following about Daniels:
“Unfortunately, while Governor Daniels is slated to speak at CPAC’s ‘Reagan Dinner,’ he has failed to understand how Ronald Reagan fused the three critical legs of the conservative movement into one coherent governing philosophy. Discarding one makes the whole obsolete.
“Governor Daniels’ selection is an affront to the millions of conservatives who believe that social issues such as abortion and traditional marriage are non-negotiable.
“The Beltway wisdom among Republican insiders boils down to a simple mantra: Social issues are a thing of the past. But this theory falls apart outside of the Washington bubble. The Republican sweep in the House was dominated by pro-life, pro-family candidates, and polling shows large majorities want to see action on these issues."
This all creates a difficult landscape for Daniels to navigate. It may be that his best path to the nomination is for the former Bush budget director to make it about the numbers, about the economy, and how to reduce fiscal deficits and debt. He's comfortable talking on that ground, and it distinguishes him from much of the rest of the 2012 GOP field.
But making fiscal issues the top issue in GOP primaries in states like Iowa and South Carolina, where social issues usually dominate, could prove very difficult if he decides to run, especially, if unemployment trends continue downward, and if President Obama takes up the fiscal mantle in 2011 and 2012, working with Republicans to try and implement his fiscal commission's recommendations.