Image: Mitch Daniels, Cheri Daniels
Darron Cummings  /  AP
First lady Cheri Daniels walks to the podium after being greeted by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels before she speaks at the state Republican Party fundraiser in Indianapolis on Thursday.
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updated 5/13/2011 8:58:18 AM ET 2011-05-13T12:58:18

Indiana first lady Cheri Daniels apologized to a crowd of state Republicans, telling them that if they were there for politics, they wouldn't get it from her. Nor would they get any hints about whether her husband, Gov. Mitch Daniels, will run for president.

The speech Thursday night, closely watched because it was a rare high-profile appearance at a political setting for a woman known for her aversion to the spotlight, focused more on less-weighty topics such as her love of the state fair and all things farming.

"In the past the keynote speaker has always given a politically inspired speech. If you came here expecting that, I'm sorry to report you will be disappointed," Cheri Daniels told the more than 1,000 people in the crowd.

Missing from the 29-minute speech were the standard lines about beating the pants off the opposing party in the next round of elections, or the thanks to the many supporters for paying a minimum $200 dollars for dinner that night.

Hype built in the run-up to Daniels' first major political speech, with some Washington reporters speculating that it would set a perfect foil for Mitch Daniels to announce he was running for president.

The governor said again Thursday he had not yet made a decision — although the state Republican party made its position clear, as it handed out green signs to the crowd of more than 1,000 people reading "Run Mitch Run."

Instead he demurred, much as he has over the last few months, in his 14-minute introduction of his wife. And she said nothing about his political career.

Mitch Daniels spoke with reporters after the speech, but Cheri Daniels was not made available for interviews, much as she has been shielded from interviews in the Daniels' six years as the first couple.

Story: Indiana first lady tests waters with rare speech

The first lady joked about her "glamorous" role in the state. She showed the crowd photos of her with sports team mascots, dressing up with the governor for Halloween and milking a cow at the state fair.

"The best thing about being first lady is there's no job description," she said.

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'We were able to do it our way here'
Mitch Daniels' introduction of his wife carried more political insight than her speech, but it too gave few signals about his future political ambitions. He said he made a pact with his wife when he decided in 2003 that he would run for governor, telling her he "would never ask you to go anywhere you don't want to go."

That pact has worked for the last eight years, but he said it would probably be harder to maintain that if he runs for president.

"We were able to do it our way here," he said. "Life might not let you the same way there."

'John von Arx, who has worked for both the governor and the first lady, said the promise made in between the Daniels' in 2003 shows that if they can make the same promise again he could successfully run for president.

Story: Gov. Mitch Daniels: Chances of beating Obama 'quite good'

"You have to read a little bit between the lines," von Arx said.

Even if the Daniels weren't talking about a White House run, members of the crow showed plenty of support. Some wore buttons saying "Mitch Daniels for President," and a group of college students presenting him with petitions to run. As Mitch Daniels took the stage to introduce his wife, people cheered and held signs saying "Run Mitch Run."

The governor appeared following a short video introduction, similar to a striking 2008 Daniels campaign ad, featuring dramatic music as statements of his accomplishments flash across the screen.

Story: Gingrich's third wife to take central role in presidential bid

Cheri Daniels' aversion to politicking is well known, and the appearance Thursday was a chance for her to gauge her comfort level with the spotlight of a national campaign.

"She's not this typical political wife, and that's OK," said Kathy Hubbard, a Daniels friend who attended the speech. "I think the public understands it."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: One-on-one with Mitch Daniels

  1. Transcript of: One-on-one with Mitch Daniels

    MR. TODD: Joining me now, the Republican governor of Indiana , Mitch Daniels . Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS .

    GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R-IN): Chuck .

    MR. TODD: All right. Well, I saw welcome back because you've been here before as budget director. And, in fact, it is as budget director I want to ask you something. During your confirmation hearings -- we were talking about these budget shutdowns -- you had talked about that you wanted to see some way to sort of change the way so that, that, that there wasn't politics being used -- the government shutdowns weren't being used as political leverage. And you also referred to riders this way, you said, "so that there aren't things like extraneous measures that could otherwise upset the normal appropriations process." We're watching that right now. Is this the type of things you were warning about? And on these riders, are Republicans in the wrong for attaching these things right now?

    GOV. DANIELS: You probably think I'm paying more attention to this than I am, Chuck , and your memory is a little better than mine. But, yeah, I think probably, as a general rule, it, it is better practice to do the people's business, try to concentrate on making ends meet, which Washington obviously has failed to do for a long time, and, and have other policy debates in other places if you can.

    MR. TODD: So your advice to Speaker Boehner would be, "You know what, we've made some political points here, but take these riders out. Take these political -- have -- save it for another part of the discussion."

    GOV. DANIELS: He doesn't need any advice but me, but I would, I would simply say this: The financial and fiscal problems facing this country are of a level that, I believe, threatens, not just our prosperity, but the survival of our republic. And really, I'm hoping and I -- that the Congress and the administration will engage very seriously. I mean, to see them arguing over nickels and dimes like this is -- especially from the vantage point of people who are making big changes to make end meet -- in state Houses seems a little -- it's almost comic.

    MR. TODD: I want to go to the debt ceiling because in, in, the first time you were on MEET THE PRESS , you were asked about the debt ceiling, the fact that it needed to be raised. This was in June of 2002 . You said it's a responsible government -- what a responsible government must do. And you said, "You know, what, it's really a housekeeping matter." That's about to come up in about six to eight weeks.

    GOV. DANIELS: Yeah.

    MR. TODD: We don't know the exact time when it's going to happen here. Do you still think it's a housekeeping matter?

    GOV. DANIELS: Well, less, less so now that we've doubled and we're on our way to tripling the national debt . And so it's a heck of a lot more serious than it was back then. But it is certainly true that the debt ceilings are rearview mirror exercises in paying for the, as I would see it, excesses of, of recent years. And at some stage you have to do it and honor the country 's obligations. But I definitely think, in the really critical fiscal corner we've painted ourselves into, it's entirely appropriate to use that moment to surface these issues. And I hope for some leverage to get some real change and not just cosmetic.

    MR. TODD: Did your former boss, President Bush , make a mistake about not trying to pay for the wars in some form of another, asking for some temporary tax hikes, if necessary, to pay for the wars? Or to pay for the prescription drug benefit? Because, obviously, you were there when, when the debt also went up, when the deficit went up. And it was because, among other things, those two things were not paid for then.

    GOV. DANIELS: Well, we'll never know. If you'd done that and you'd hurt the economy , you'd have had less revenues than, than you expected, maybe less than you had, anyway. You know, by 2007 , the deficit was tiny compared to now. It was well under 2 percent of GDP . So we would love, wouldn't we, to be back to that level now. So...

    MR. TODD: But you're an executive now. If you -- you believe in paying for things. If you are going to offer something, you should pay for it .

    GOV. DANIELS: Yeah, don't offer what you can't pay for. That'd be a good principle to return to in the federal government .

    MR. TODD: So the prescription drug benefit probably shouldn't have been offered without being paid for.

    GOV. DANIELS: Well, it's cost a whole lot less than anybody thought. But it is part -- there's no question -- it is part of the biggest problem we face, which isn't even these massive annual deficits we're running, it's the unaffordable promises we have made to -- in what we call the entitlement programs.

    MR. TODD: All right, let's talk about your record as governor of Indiana . I want to put up a basic thing here on jobs. When you took office, the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. Now it's 9.1 percent. When you took office, nearly three million Indianan -- Hoosiers were employed, now it's 2.8. I say this -- so it's a loss of 144,000 jobs. I say this because you have made a huge effort to pay down the state 's debt, to really pinch the budget down. But that has -- job creation hasn't come with it. And we've heard arguments among Republicans here in Washington and across these statehouses that you shrink government, it will create jobs. When did -- we're not seeing evidence of that in Indiana .

    GOV. DANIELS: You could put up that same graphic for probably 48 or 49 states in America . A national, catastrophic recession will do that to you. Before that recession started, we were at essentially full employment. It was well below what it had been when we got there. But, listen, you do what you can do. On every measure -- everybody's survey, everybody's rating -- of a great place to invest and do business and create jobs, Indiana is now in the top tier. It's the only state anywhere in our neighborhood. It's basically us and a few Sunbelt western states . And that's what government can do, create the best conditions you can. But just as tsunamis overwhelm the best preparations, so do economic tidal waves like the one that we experienced and which we're still recovering from.

    MR. TODD: All right, I want to talk about what we saw -- look at these pictures yesterday in Wisconsin . There were massive protests about these -- this battle in Wisconsin , Republican Governor Scott Walker . He has won the legislative battle. He got what he wanted, he passed this. You made a decision on similar legislation. It wasn't quite with collective bargaining with public employees. This had to do with a right-to-work legislation, and you said something interesting. You said you chose not to pick this fight because you didn't campaign on it. And you believed if you hadn't made a case to voters about right-to-work legislation that you shouldn't be trying to do it once you've -- in office and in the legislative session. Governor Walker , do you think, loses the political fight here?

    GOV. DANIELS: I have no way of knowing. I think the taxpayers of Wisconsin won. Seems to me that he committed to do the sorts of things he's trying to do, and we ought to -- agree or disagree with people -- we ought to respect them when they do try to live up to their words. But...

    MR. TODD: But he didn't campaign on the, on the collective bargaining aspect of this. He campaigned on asking public employees to contribute more, but he didn't campaign on that aspect. Do you think that was a mistake?

    GOV. DANIELS: I don't know. But I would say that from our own experience that if you have a serious fiscal problem, which we did six years ago and don't today, that having the flexibility to manage government, not only to save money, but to serve people better -- and I could illustrate this in a hundred ways -- is pretty important. And before we discontinued government union collective bargaining in Indiana , you really couldn't make any of the changes.

    MR. TODD: Do you not believe in collective bargaining ?

    GOV. DANIELS: I do believe in collective bargaining in the private sector. And -- but only within very...

    MR. TODD: You don't believe public employees should have it.

    GOV. DANIELS: Don't take it from me . Some of the greatest defenders and champions of labor -- Samuel Gompers, George Meade , Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- said it had no place in government. Now, it's there now in a very big way. In a, I think a very cynical fashion, it tilts our politics, and so I think there are very serious problems with it. But, you know, I would just say, it's not just about saving money. The Indiana experience says it's also about serving the public better.

    MR. TODD: All right. I want to move to presidential politics a little bit and the...

    GOV. DANIELS: Do we have to?

    MR. TODD: ...and the Republican Party -- oh, do we have to?

    GOV. DANIELS: Mm-hmm.

    MR. TODD: We'll twist your arm, we'll talk about that in a minute.

    GOV. DANIELS: Yeah. Yeah.

    MR. TODD: Somebody's been twisting your arm, clearly, there.

    GOV. DANIELS: Right.

    MR. TODD: I want to go to your comments about calling a truce on social issues. One thing that's happened with your comments is that it's certainly made some folks pay attention . This week in Iowa you had a few critics about calling for a truce on social issues. Take a listen.

    MR. RALPH REED: You know, some have suggested that we call a truce on the social and moral issues. I don't know about you, but I seem to remember Ronald Reagan fighting and winning the Cold War at the very time that he was restoring values and growing the economy .

    SEN. SANTORUM: ...these moral issues that everyone says, "Oh, maybe we should set to the side and have a truce on." You can't. It is who we are. It is the purpose of our country .

    MR. TODD: Look, you have a great political mind. You were in -- you were one of the -- in the political shop in Ronald Reagan 's presidency. Let's be purely pragmatic here. Can a Republican running for president ignore social issues and succeed in Iowa , in South Carolina ?

    GOV. DANIELS: I don't know. I -- you know, I don't sit around calculating the political pluses and minuses of every little word I utter. I've -- just sort of tell people what I think makes sense, and I'm prepared to respect disagreements. I don't have any disagreements with these folks. I happen to share their views, and I respect their passion. You know, some of it, however,

    Chuck, comes to this: Are you more committed to results or to rhetoric? And in pursuit of the results that matter, that I think are fully consistent with a commitment to limited government and individual liberty and freedom in this country , I think we're going to have to do some very, very big things . We're going to have to make changes, at least moving forward, that will permit us to maintain a growing economy and the American dream of upward mobility for folks at the bottom. And we're going to have to get together people who disagree on other things. That's all I've said. So I respect those who disagree. And it's ironic because, as the record will show, I've done the things that they say they'd like to do.

    MR. TODD: Let's get to your own future. In fact, politically you had said you weren't going to have another future. Take a look.

    GOV. DANIELS: Whatever your outlook on politics, here's some good news. This is the last time you'll have to watch me in an ad like this. See, governor's the only office I'd run for, or ever will.

    MR. TODD: Is that ad going to be out of date and a lie by the time the Iowa caucuses come in January or February?

    GOV. DANIELS: Well, I'm not sure. I, I wrote it, as I wrote, I guess, almost all my own stuff, and I meant it, every word of it. And others have said over the course of the last year and a half that I ought to consider something that never entered my mind. I've agreed to consider it. That's...

    MR. TODD: What's your time -- what, what's the latest you think you can enter this race, in your mind, you know? I know you don't want other people setting deadlines, but what's your own deadline?

    GOV. DANIELS: People have been asking me that question for over a year now, and they always thought the deadline was immediate. And here we are in the middle of March. I think it's a blissful occurrence that the darn thing hasn't started two years ahead of time. So I don't know. I will tell you...

    MR. TODD: Can you wait all summer?

    GOV. DANIELS: I have no idea. I will tell you this. I am completely committed to the job I'm in now.

    MR. TODD: Sure.

    GOV. DANIELS: We're trying to do some very exciting things in Indiana to make our state better, and that comes first. And if, if deadlines pass, they do.

    MR. TODD: Quickly, you had said the field has -- "the pickings are slim" when you were describing the field. Do you still feel right now, in what you've seen out there, that the pickings are slim in the Republican race?

    GOV. DANIELS: Well, I said if people were talking about me, then the pickings must be slim. And, you know, I, I still think there's time. And there's some really good people running. I like them all.

    MR. TODD: Mm-hmm.

    GOV. DANIELS: And, you know, I'm hoping that our party will simply step up to the issues of the day. And it could be any one of those folks.

    MR. TODD: Very quickly, Senator Lugar , your friend, Indiana senator, senior senator , running for a seventh term. I know you've said you were going to vote for him. Are you supporting him? Are you going to endorse him? Will you do whatever he asks you to do in his re-election effort? And he's facing a primary challenge from a state office holder and a tea party favorite.

    GOV. DANIELS: Yeah. Who's a good friend of mine, by the way, and been a good ally. But, no, I'm for Dick Lugar . He's the role model I've had in politics for a long time.

    MR. TODD: You'll appear for him, if he asks?

    GOV. DANIELS: Well, I've never intervened in primaries. I'm not sure what good it would do if I did. But folks in Indiana know that, that I am for him, and that I admire him, and think if he wants another term, he ought to have it.

    MR. TODD: Well, we are packed this show. I wish we had more time. Governor Mitch Daniels , thank you for coming on MEET THE PRESS .

    GOV. DANIELS: Good being with you.

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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