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Mitch Daniels: There’s still time for more GOP hopefuls

Indiana Gov Mitch Daniels speaks in Washington on Feb. 11, 2011. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told a roomful of reporters Friday that there is still time for another candidate to jump into the Republican nominating contest for president. But he doesn’t see anyone who is looking like he or she is thinking about jumping in.

“Frankly, I think it’s positive if you don’t have to rev up 2 1 / 2 years early to have a chance,” Daniels (R) said at a breakfast in Washington sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “But I don’t know who that would be. I don’t see anybody. I haven’t heard anybody out there not running for president who gives any indication.”

Daniels, a leading voice within the GOP on the need for radical fiscal reforms in government, disappointed legions of activists by ruling out his own bid for president this year. In town through Tuesday to promote his new book, “Keeping the Republic,” Daniels said he is hoping his views can remain in the conversation and guide the nomination process.

In his remarks Friday, Daniels said he did not watch Thursday night’s GOP debate in Orlando, nor any of the debates, for that matter. It’s his way of dodging a question he’s constantly asked: what he thinks of the current field.

Daniels did say that he would support the GOP nominee, whoever it turns out to be, and he qualified his view that there’s still time for someone else to jump in by saying, “I didn’t say there was a need.”

He repeated his view that the nation’s debt will irreparably harm its fortunes if it is not addressed in dramatic fashion. (In his book, Daniels calls Social Security a “Ponzi” scheme — just like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has come under fire for that remark.) And he said Americans should be prepared for the likelihood that the problem could take years to fix. “People should not be promised months,” he said, perhaps a reference to a campaign claim made by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who said she would turn around the economy in one fiscal quarter. “I don’t think anybody can make that promise.”

Daniels also lamented the divisive nature of the political landscape today and said he’s willing, as others should be, to credit President Obama where he’s due. He complimented the president for his education reforms and his commitment to his family, and he said he had no quibble with most of the current administration’s foreign policy.

But Daniels also reiterated his view that Obama has a fundamental misunderstanding of how to lead the nation to prosperity — and that this political moment, the 2012 presidential election, presents a crucial choice for Americans.

“The president’s life has been so far removed from the world in which jobs and wealth, prosperity, are made, that he doesn’t understand and probably can’t understand how damaging his policies are to the economic prospects of the country,” Daniels said. “He just inhabits a different plane in that respect.

“He did come into an economic emergency,” Daniels added, “but he came in with just the wrong set of biases and policy instincts. ‘Change you can believe in’ — what does it mean? It doesn’t mean anything. It’s in the eye of the beholder. That sort of non-specific charisma campaign is not what we need. The situation is way too urgent for that.”

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