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Getting to Yes for Mitch and Cheri Daniels

By Erin McPike - May 13, 2011

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Reminded that he's said several times that he thinks his potential rivals are fine people but that he's not supporting any of them yet, he said, "It's early. There's a lot of time for them. I've tried to make pretty plain what I think the dangers and the risks to the country are and the things that ought to be done about them. I'm interested to see which of them comes the closest to that."

Later, he poured cold water on the idea that if Haley Barbour had run for president, he wouldn't still be considering it. In fact, he told a gaggle of reporters that swarmed him after the event that they would have had more fun with both of them in the race. Daniels wouldn't divulge any of the details of the conversations he's had with Barbour since the Mississippi governor, his old friend, said he wouldn't run, but the two have spoken. Daniels also has heard from some of his other potential rivals.

Those candidates have openly questioned whether Daniels will be an effective candidate because his message about the country's problems is so sobering -- we're not paying our way in this country -- that it comes off as almost pessimistic. But even before making up his mind, Daniels has begun to refine his political message. In the speech he gave introducing his wife Thursday night, he hit more optimistic tones in what sounded like an opening appeal to the Republican base.

He reminded his listeners how much luck the Indiana Republican Party has had in the last few years, and what a source of frustration their successes have been for Democrats.

"We just do not fit in their neat little stereotypes of what a Republican is supposed to stand for," he said, explaining that the state GOP is "known by what it is for, not what we are against."

He dismissed "red meat" as something that's just for dinner and boasted that Indiana Republicans have been too busy to bash other people.

"We are a party of ideas, but more importantly a party that acts on ideas," he said, adding that in the Hoosier State, there were no forgotten towns or inner cities that are too bleak.

He has obviously given some thought to the area beyond Indiana's borders, too.

Daniels accepted an invitation from those 55 students to meet at a spacious bar several blocks away after the event; he sipped Woodford Reserve bourbon as he asked them about their own lives and families. In return, they asked him who he might like to tap as his vice presidential nominee if he runs.

Hypothetically, he told them, he'd like to pick Condoleezza Rice.

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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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