For those Republicans dissatisfied with the current presidential field and looking for a new candidate to jump into the race, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) has an answer:
“It ain’t me.”
Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting at the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Washington, Daniels acknowledged that he’s gotten some calls from members of his party to enter the race, but he declined to name names.
And he said that those calls haven’t caused him to reconsider his decision not to jump into the presidential fray.
“I wasn’t running, I’m not running, and I don’t plan to run,” he said. “I’d love to have something new to say to y’all, but I just don’t. I’ve felt there are other ways a person can contribute, and I’m trying to do that in other ways. But I’m not a candidate and I’m not planning to be.”
Some Republicans have expressed concern that the current front-runner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), may not fully energize the party come November, while others worry that former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Romney’s top rival in the race, may alienate independents because of his conservative positions on social issues.
Daniels, a former Office of Management and Budget director who delivered the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last month and who is known nationally as a deficit hawk, has a loyal base of support within the GOP. He has been described in some circles as the candidate best equipped in terms of budgetary know-how to take on Obama in a year when the economy is the No. 1 issue.
But he has repeatedly dismissed calls to run and when he was asked again Saturday whether anything might change his mind, responded, “That’s one of those hypothetical questions I was trained not to answer.”
“This was never about practicalities or possibilities or any of that,” he said of potentially running for president. “It’s just not something I’ve had an ambition to do or any intention to do. You need more than a little ambition to go through this.”
“The fire in the belly,” one reporter said.
“Well, I’ve got a warm belly about the condition of the country, but not about running, personally,” he said.
Asked whether he thinks it will be necessary for Republicans to find a new candidate aside from the four who are running, Daniels said no.
“I really believe there’s a great chance for our nominee — presumably one of the current candidates — to win this election,” he said. “I really do. I think the objection condition of the economy will not be helpful at all to the president. Possibly even worse than today. And he has absolutely vacated the field on the most important issues, the ones that are bothering people in my state and elsewhere: a struggling economy and a mountain of debt.”