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The Campaign Waiting for Mitch Daniels

By Erin McPike - April 29, 2011

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Many operatives expect the party's real estate would be converted into a presidential campaign headquarters, as Daniels ran his gubernatorial campaigns out of those offices. Party operatives coo in their second-floor offices over the loft to the first floor with its big, open entryway and exposed brick that is also a prime locale to fit in hundreds of people for events and fundraisers.

And already in the building sits a team ready to key into a presidential campaign whenever Daniels says the word. The new GOP chairman is Eric Holcomb, who has long been Daniels' closest political adviser, and who would likely slide right into the campaign's managerial role.

Holcomb joked to RealClearPolitics this week that he has to change his cell phone battery several times each day because he's been getting so many calls from people who want to help if Daniels runs.

"I have a database of potential supporters," he said. The team also has received more than a few resumes.

Among them is a group of students based at Yale who have started a draft movement for Daniels and even aired a few low-dollar ads to goad him into the race. They've begun to gather signatures for a petition to present to Daniels to encourage him to run.

Perhaps most important, 55 of those students plan to fly into Indianapolis on May 12, when Daniels' wife, Cheri, gives her first big political speech at a state Republican Party fundraiser and encourage her, as well.

Last year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie keynoted the dinner with about 900 attendees in the audience. The party is on pace to match that record or surpass it with Mrs. Daniels.

Aside from the supporters, there's also a sort of political advisory board in Indianapolis for Daniels to tap into. Not all of them may be on the campaign payroll -- as there have been legislative initiatives taking their time as consultants, and competitive gubernatorial and senatorial races in Indiana next year -- but it's likely all would be involved in some way.

Strategist Anne Hathaway was a chief of staff at the Republican National Committee during the 2008 convention and is close to Holcomb. She was also a regional political director for the Bush campaign in 2004 and has campaign experience dating back to the other Bush's presidential campaigns and would likely play a key role in a Daniels campaign.

Kevin Kellems, a former communications director to Vice President Cheney and director of strategy for the World Bank, now splits his time between Washington, D.C., and Indiana for his political consulting work, and recently finished helping out Sen. Dan Coats' campaign. He's also close to the Daniels team.

Cam Savage, Coats' campaign manager, now has his own firm called Limestone Strategies, where he oversaw many of the political efforts in getting through education reform, a victory Daniels clinched earlier this week. Also instrumental in that effort was the executive director of Daniels' Aiming Higher PAC, Brian McGrath, who has been running Daniels' fundraising.

Then there's Al Hubbard, an Indianapolis-based CEO who was the director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush and a deputy chief of staff to his father. Hubbard may be a sort of Svengali for Daniels.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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