Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels
With a resume that includes both political and policy posts at the local, state and national level, Mitch Daniels arguably boasts the strongest experience of any Republican in the country. Re-elected overwhelmingly to a second term in 2008 even as President Obama carried the Hoosier State, Daniels’ service as Indiana’s governor would come to an end just as a new president is sworn in. But does he want the job?
Daniels started his career as an aide to Richard Lugar when he was mayor of Indianapolis. He later served as his chief of staff in the Senate, and later joined the Reagan White House as political director. He returned to public life after a decade as an executive at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly by serving as the director of the Office and Management and Budget at the start of the Bush administration.
At a time when Indiana was solidly red in federal elections, “My Man Mitch” as he was known in the campaign became the first Republican elected governor in 16 years in 2004, defeating incumbent Joe Kernan. His governorship was marked early on by some controversial decisions regarding daylight savings time and a plan to lease the state’s toll roads to a foreign entity. But his numbers rebounded as the state endured the worsening economic crisis better than some of its Rust Belt neighbors, and he cruised to re-election.
At a time when not just the nation’s economy but its growing debts are a mounting concern, Daniels’ credentials as a fiscal conservative are likely his strongest asset in a potential 2012 race. Indiana currently has one of the lowest budget deficits in the county as a percentage of its general fund, and was one of the few states not to implement new or higher taxes this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Though Daniels has been the subject of presidential speculation, he publicly ruled out a bid in June, saying: “I've only ever run for or held one office. It's the last one I'm going to hold." But behind the scenes, however, he may be sending other signals. U.S. News & World Report claimed just this week he’s been consulting with veterans of national campaigns, including former Vice President and Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, on a potential run. GOP12.com pointed out this week that Quayle himself said recently he “certainly would be fully qualified, very competitive and could possibly be the nominee and give Obama a good run.