News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 29, 2011

STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: The tabloidish demise of Gov. Daniels potential presidential run

Ever since Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels dropped the bombshell news that he wasn’t running for president, calls from celebrity journalists to his office have plummeted.

The great gaggle of print and broadcast media who clamored for “exclusive” interviews with the wanna-be presidential aspirant has shrunk back down to near pre-speculation numbers.

Christiane Amapour, the millions-making moderator of ABC’s “This Week,” was spotted in the Statehouse midweek. But after her sit-down interview with the man who won’t be king of the West Wing, she dashed off, with an impressive entourage in tow.

The thrill is gone.

In the weeks and months leading up to the late-night revelation that he wouldn’t seek the GOP nomination, Daniels got some pretty great press. He was heralded as a wonkish fiscal genius who could outshine the dim bulbs who were his likely competitors.

On May 18, POLITICO — the must-read, multi-media news source for political junkies — ran the headline: “GOP elite see Mitch Daniels as 2012 savior.”

It was a romance that wasn’t going to last. Around the same time, different headlines were appearing in other national news venues, topping off stories with salacious details of Daniels’ divorce from his wife, Cheri. Lost in the coverage seemed to be the fact that the divorce was more than a decade ago and that the couple later remarried and raised four daughters.

It was all nasty enough that on May 21, when Daniels dispatched two of his closest friends to deliver a statement to The Indianapolis Star announcing his decision not to run, he sent a second statement along as well.

In that second statement, Daniels defended his wife, disclaiming the notion that she’d “abandoned” her children when she left him to marry another a man.

Knowing how deep into the muck the media scrutiny was sinking gives some context to the first statement he issued about his decision to drop out of the race, in which he cited his family’s worries that they’d be stripped naked of their privacy if he decided to run for president.

In that statement, he said: “What could have been a complicated decision was in the end very simple: on matter affecting us all, our family constitution gives a veto to the women’s caucus, and there is no override provision. Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more.”

Here’s one more weird detail to illustrate just how tabloidish the story had become: The Indianapolis Star had the exclusive on Daniels’ announcement, and had made a deal with the Daniels’ camp on when to break it. (On Sunday morning, at 2 a.m. on The Star’s website and in the Sunday print edition.) That deal prompted some furious questions from other media sources, forcing The Star’s editor to go on record denying his newspaper had paid for the exclusive.

 

Maureen Hayden is statehouse bureau chief for the Tribune-Star and CNHI Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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