Howey Politics writes that former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is indeed serious about waging a potential bid to succeed Sen. Mike Braun, a fellow Republican who is leaving D.C. to run for Daniels’ old job as chief executive. Brian Howey relays that Daniels will “gather his braintrust in Florida” soon after he finishes his stint as president of Purdue University at the end of this year. Several other prominent Republicans are also eyeing Braun’s seat, though, and a Daniels ally acknowledges, “He’s got to make a decision quickly.”
At least one would-be rival may be running before then, as Rep. Jim Banks tells Politico he’ll spend “the next few weeks” deciding on a Senate bid and would have an announcement in early 2023. Daniels himself about a decade ago described Banks, who was a state senator at the time, as the future of the GOP.
A Daniels Senate bid would be a surprise because Politico’s Adam Wren relayed back in June that, while both Daniels and his wife were open to the idea of him running for governor again, neither of them wanted to go to D.C.
There’s no word about any change of heart from Cheri Daniels about them relocating to Washington, but the Purdue president no longer seems at all open to returning to the governor’s office. This week his old boss, George W. Bush, joked about the idea while at an event on campus: Daniels, writes Howey, in response “shook his head no and formed an ‘X’ with his index fingers to an applauding crowd.”
Daniels will be 75 on Election Day, which would make him one of the oldest people to be elected to their first term in the Senate. However, one of his backers told Howey, “He’s too valuable to just be serving on corporate boards.” Daniels himself has bragged about his workout regime, telling Wren over the summer that he’d done 101 pushups that morning.
Daniels has been largely insulated from Trump-era GOP politics during his 10 years leading Purdue, which he likened to a “vow of political celibacy,” and a comeback would test whether he still has any staying power with hardline primary voters. Daniels himself, though, already seemed to be moving in a different direction than his party even before he left elected office.
In 2010 Daniels, who was considering a White House bid at the time, famously said the next GOP president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues” so they could concentrate on solving fiscal issues like the deficit, a pitch that did not go over well with prominent politicians like then-Rep. Mike Pence.
The governor, who signed a bill the next year banning state contracts from going to groups like Planned Parenthood that provided abortion services, was hardly a moderate himself, but he continued to insist that some sort of change was needed. Daniels used his 2011 speech to CPAC to tell the crowd, “The public is increasingly disgusted with a steady diet of defamation.” He also tried to make his truce comments more palatable by declaring,
“Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers. King Pyrrhus is remembered, but his nation disappeared. Winston Churchill set aside his lifetime loathing of Communism in order to fight World War II. Challenged as a hypocrite, he said that when the safety of Britain was at stake, his ‘conscience became a good girl.’ We are at such a moment. I for one have no interest in standing in the wreckage of our Republic saying ‘I told you so’ or ‘You should’ve done it my way.’”
Daniels ended up sitting out the 2012 White House contest and became president of Purdue right after leaving office early the next year. The GOP a few years later would nominate Trump, who very much enjoyed feeding America a “steady diet of defamation” and very much didn’t agree with Daniels that the deficit was “the new red scare” that needed to be immediately addressed.
The Purdue president in August merely said of MAGA's master, “I don't talk about him. Haven't up to this point. It's not the day to do that.” Daniels, though, didn’t seem particularly happy with the direction of the GOP, telling WTHR, “I think both parties have come to be dominated by their fringe. Extreme left. Extreme right.”
Daniels in a separate interview with Wren that month also described the Jan. 6 attack as, “[a]wful and inexcusable,” though he continued to argue that leftists also have “behaved in a way that’s inimical to free institutions.” Wren used that interview to ask, “Can your brand of conservatism still win in the current environment?” to which Daniels responded, “I don’t know. I’ve been in isolation and quarantine for 10 years. In one way I think about it, maybe I haven’t been infected by the viruses that are running around on both sides.”
The same cannot be said about his potential intra-party Banks. The congressman voted to overturn Joe Biden’s win hours after the Jan. 6 attack, and while he initially called for a bipartisan commission to investigate the riot, he quickly reversed himself and told colleagues to oppose the plan. A few months later House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy picked Banks and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan as two of his nominees for the Jan. 6 committee; Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected them both, saying their “statements and actions” disqualified them.
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