What Daniels has long been advocating dovetails with the budget blueprint recently unveiled by House Budget Committee
Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). His entry into the race could ensure that a debate between President Obama and Ryan becomes a central issue of the 2012 campaign. More than any other potential candidate, Daniels would test whether voters are ready for the kind of stiff medicine he prescribes.
But Daniels also would challenge his own party, with a message that calls for focusing on fiscal issues over social ones, for appealing seriously to voters who are not part of the conservative coalition and for being prepared to compromise with Democrats to solve the debt problem.
As he put it in a speech this year: “Should the best way be blocked . . . then someone will need to find the second-best way. Or the third, because the nation’s survival requires it. Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers.”
For more than a year, Daniels has been on the fence about running for president. Now, with the legislative session in Indiana ending, he says he owes it to potential supporters to make a decision. “It’s time to cut bait,” he said in an interview in his statehouse office.
His decision will come just as the campaign for the Republican nomination is about to heat up. The first debate of the cycle is set for May 5 in South Carolina, though with only a partial cast likely to be onstage.
Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and several lesser-known candidates have formed presidential committees. Newt Gingrich and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who have been moving around early states, are expected to make their final decisions soon.
Businessman Donald Trump, who has leaped to the upper tier in the polls with a media blitz, will make a decision over the next month or so, as will Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. will return to the country soon and indicate whether he will run. Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin are hanging back.
Daniels has looked to others to seize the issue of the country’s fiscal problems, hoping that would give him a good reason not to run. He has examined from various angles the question of whether he should run. Can he advocate as effectively for action on the debt problem if he does not become a candidate? Does the debate touched off by Ryan’s plan and Obama’s response guarantee that the issue will be front and center in 2012 even without him? Will he set back the cause if he runs and does poorly?