Indiana first lady Cheri Herman Daniels is a “lifelong Hoosier” who has four daughters with Gov. Mitch Daniels. Her official state Web site also shares that the blond and personable 61-year-old enjoys reading, golfing, exercising, cooking and spending time with family and friends. In recent months, she has participated in the “Cheri’s Chores” program, in which she acquires new skills. (“Cheri’s Chores Assignment 1: Learn how to drive a dump truck and operate a gravel shooter.” No. 8: “Learn how to be a lunch lady.”)
Whether Mitch Daniels runs for president may come down to his wife’s vote
As she prepares to deliver the keynote address at the Indiana state GOP dinner Thursday, Daniels has taken on a new task: shaping the Republican presidential field.
“The decision is in the hands of his wife,” John Sununu, former New Hampshire Republican governor and a close friend of Daniels, told the Web site RealClearPolitics in March. “I know for sure she has the final say on this campaign.”
If the first lady is the deciding vote, she is not an easy sell. She has expressed her own reservations about the consequences a presidential bid might have on her family. In a March interview with the Indianapolis Star, she said: “It will be a complete family decision. It affects every single one of my daughters and their families, too. So, yes, we’ll be in talks.”
In February, the governor told Politico that it was “safe to say” his wife, who met him long before he pursued electoral politics, wasn’t warm to a prospective run. A close aide to Daniels told the Huffington Post this week that he would “like to run” but had not convinced his wife.
Republicans on the ground in Indiana said this for-the-family’s-sake political rhetoric is not the usual stalling tactic. “He is sincere when he says that family considerations are important,” said one Indiana Republican official.
The governor’s political enemies — those who are eager to box out a promising contender with a reputation for fiscal seriousness, establishment backing and intellectual heft — are taking him at his word.
A rival campaign has identified the first lady’s reticence as a pressure point before she steps fully into the limelight. The couple has a complicated personal history. They divorced in 1994, and Cheri Daniels moved to California, where she remarried. The future governor, then a senior executive at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, raised the couple’s four daughters, who at the time spanned the ages of 8 to 14. Cheri Daniels later returned, and the couple remarried in 1997.
In exchange for anonymity, an official for another GOP prospect provided contact information for the ex-wife of the man Cheri Daniels married, in the years between her divorce and remarriage to Daniels. Other officials at potential rival campaigns to Daniels disagreed about whether the personal history of Cheri Daniels would ever be a vulnerability or even germane to the race. One key adviser to a potential candidate said that the guardedness the first lady had exhibited about her past signaled a lack of enthusiasm that, more than any personal baggage, would handicap her husband’s chances over time. An official at another candidate’s campaign said the marital history wouldn’t and shouldn’t matter.