“In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one, but that, the interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all,” Daniels said in a statement emailed to supporters early Sunday morning. “If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry.”
Daniels’ decision not to run ends months of public speculation about his interest in the race in which he went from entirely uninterested to a man on the verge of a national bid.
And, it almost certainly means that an already wide-open race for the GOP nomination in 2012 will become even more so in the coming weeks.
Of late, there seemed to be a sort of rallying around Daniels from the political establishment with people like House Speaker John Boehner and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praising his record as governor. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a one-time 2012 aspirant himself, urged Daniels to make the race.
Daniels’ appeal was as a sober voice of reason in a party that had been dominated by sideshows -- like the potential candidacy of businessman Donald Trump — in the early days of the 2012 election.
A former head of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, Daniels ran for (and won) the Indiana governorship in 2004 by running as a straight-talking populist. He was re-elected four years later despite the fact that President Obama carried the Hoosier State.
Even as the presidential speculation reached a fever pitch, however, Daniels remained a a man divided. His family — his wife, Cheri, and his their four daughters — were publicly opposed to the race.
And, as he more seriously considered the contest, Daniels’ personal life took center stage — in particular the fact that he and his wife had divorced in the 1990s only to remarry years later.
In the end, those family concerns seemed to trump the encouragement Daniels was receiving from within the GOP. “I’m relieved for his family, campaigns are brutal,” said Daniels pollster Christine Matthews. “I have no doubt he will continue to have influence and impact on the 2012 race.”
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who will formally announce his presidential candidacy tomorrow, praised Daniels an “intellectual powerhouse”, adding that he “will continue to play a leading role in the party’s politics and the nation’s policies.”
Daniels is the third GOP candidate to bow out of the race in the past eight days. Trump as well as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said no to the contest during that time frame.
With Daniels now out of the running, there is likely to be a renewed effort by some to encourage the likes of Christie, who has risen to national prominence thanks to his tough-talking style in New Jersey, to reconsider his past refusals to run.
“The makeup of the field has never been a part of his decision-making processm,” said Christie adviser Mike DuHaime.
Other potential candidates, too, may look at the race again — sensing the same opportunity that Daniels did for a message focused on debt and spending.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is regarded as the nominal frontrunner in the contest thanks to his considerable fundraising prowess — he raised $10.25 million in a single day last week — and the fact he has already run for the office once in 2008.
But national polling suggests the race is a genuine jump ball with large swaths of voters either undecided or unhappy with their current options.