News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana Legislature

May 8, 2011

State of the Statehouse: Waiting for Daniels to make a decision

INDIANAPOLIS — Will he or won’t he?

That’s the big question looming large in the Indiana Statehouse in recent weeks as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels toys with our curiosity about his political future and potential bid for the White House.

There are signs everywhere that he might jump in. Even though he’s ranked low in the national polls — apparently a lot people outside of Indiana don’t even know who he is — his national media presence is escalating rapidly.

Last Sunday, for example, he was quoted on the front page of The New York Times in a story about how GOP leaders were looking for someone other than a billionaire or celebrity to jump into the race.

Four days later, I got an e-mail from a researcher with National Public Radio’s news quiz show, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” asking me for some information on Daniels, for possible use as one of their news-of-the-week questions.

That same morning, I heard a story on NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Daniels’ speech to the American Enterprise Institute; saw his name on the Wall Street Journal website; and read this about him in a NPR political blog: “It’s still unclear, at least to those of us outside the head of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, if he will run for the Republican Party presidential nomination. Daniels gives the impression that it’s unclear to him, too.”

It seems hard to believe that it’s unclear to him, though that indeed is the impression he leaves with Statehouse reporters who ask — again and again and again — if he’ll run or when he’ll decide. It’s the first and last question that opens and closes nearly every media availability he’s had for Statehouse reporters in recent weeks.

He also leaves the impression that he’s having a little fun with the media’s frustration. According to an account in the Indianapolis Star, during his dinner speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Daniels joked about a “pajama-clad blogger” who had turned what he called a routine event into a major policy address.

Whatever you think of the governor and his policies — beloved by some, despised by others — he does have a charming self-deprecating sense of humor that should serve him well if he does decide to jump into the presidential campaign fray.

For a man who’s been called “boring,” “wonkish,” and “short” by national political writers, he’ll likely need to keep that sense of humor alive and well as he’s scrutinized and dissected in coming months if he decides to run.

Daniels has said his “will he or won’t he?” announcement could come at anytime. Until then, here’s my answer to that question: “I just don’t know.”

Maureen Hayden is statehouse bureau chief for CNHI’s Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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