Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, in a low-key appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, was mum about a potential 2012 presidential bid. “I have agreed to consider it,” he said, but did not sound enthusiastic about the prospect. “Others have said over the course of the last year and a half that I ought to consider something that had never entered my mind.”
With regard to a timeline for his decision, Daniels has “no idea.” He did not shoot down moderator Chuck Todd’s question about waiting until the summer. “I am completely committed to the job I am in now,” he said. “If deadlines pass, they do.” Besides, he mused, it is a “blissful occurrence” that the presidential horse race has been slow to start.
Daniels praised the emerging field of contenders as he sidestepped questions about his own intentions. “There are some really good people running,” he said. “I like them all. I am hoping that our party will simply step up to the issues of the day, and it could be any one of those folks.”
Yet many of those same candidates criticized Daniel indirectly last week at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s spring kick-off. In a series of speeches, White House hopefuls such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum argued that social values should be the keystone of the GOP platform.
Daniels last year proposed a “truce” on social issues, hoping to see Republicans focus on fiscal problems. On Meet, he shrugged off the criticisms. “I happen to share their views and respect their passion,” he said. “Some of it, however, comes to this: Are you more committed to results or rhetoric?”
“I don’t sit around calculating the political pluses and minuses of every little word I utter,” Daniels said. If Beltway leaders want to achieve meaningful fiscal reform, he added, they are “going to have to get together people who disagree on other things.”
Daniels, who served in the Bush administration as director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, also weighed in on the budget debate brewing on Capitol Hill. “To see them arguing over nickels and dimes like this,” he said, is “almost comic,” especially as entitlement spending soars.
Daniels then wagged a finger at House Republicans, who have attached politically-tinged amendments — often dubbed “riders” — to recent spending bills. “As a general rule, it is better practice to do the people’s business, try to concentrate on making ends meet, which Washington obviously has failed to do for a long time, and have other policy debates in other places,” he said. Still, when pressed by Todd, he did not criticize House Speaker John Boehner for enabling such “riders” to be brought to the floor.
Turning toward Hoosier State politics, Daniels offered hearty support to Sen. Dick Lugar, who is facing Tea Party opposition in the run-up to the 2012 GOP Senate primary. “I’m for Dick Lugar, he’s the role model I’ve had,” he said.
Daniels, who once served as Lugar’s chief of staff, emphasized that he would not meddle in the primary. Voters, though, will know where he stands. “Folks in Indiana know that I am for him and that I admire him and think if he wants another term, he ought to have one,” he said.