Mitch Daniels
Darron Cummings  /  AP
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on April 15. Daniels will not be a GOP candidate for president in 2012.
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updated 5/22/2011 11:49:41 AM ET 2011-05-22T15:49:41

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said early Sunday that he won't run for president because of family concerns, a development that narrowed the Republican nomination field though made the wide-open race even more uncertain.

"In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one," the Republican said, disclosing his decision in a middle-of-the-night e-mail to supporters. "The interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all. If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry."

A two-term Midwestern governor, Daniels had been considering a bid for months and was pressured by many in the establishment wing of the party hungering for a conservative with a strong fiscal record to run. He expressed interest in getting in the race partly because it would give him a national platform to ensure the country's fiscal health would remain part of the 2012 debate.

But he always said his family — his wife and four daughters — was a sticking point.

What might have been
Had he run, Daniels would have shaken up the still evolving race that lacks a front-runner and has been unpredictable in its early stages.

If the governor would have decided to run, a crop of GOP donors and grass-roots supporters had been ready to pull the trigger on a national fundraising and political organization that some aides privately said would rival those of others already in the race. And outside Republican observers had long said that he would be a serious contender for the party nod as a candidate.

Instead, Daniels becomes the latest Republican to opt against a bid as the GOP searches for a Republican to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

The Indiana governor's close friend, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, surprised much of the GOP when he pulled the plug on a candidacy in April; he privately had encouraged Daniels to run instead. A week ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa caucus winner, bowed out, followed quickly by celebrity real estate developer Donald Trump.

"He's a terrific talent," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican presidential candidate, said of Daniels on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "He would have been a very formidable competitor. I really thought he would be in the front-runners from Day One if he'd decided to run."

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Budget Committee and, like Daniels, a proponent of bringing fiscal issues to the forefront of political debate, said the governor's decision was disappointing.

"I think his candidacy would have been a great addition to this race," Ryan said on NBC's "Meet the Press." The Wisconsin congressman waved off any suggestion he was considering entering the presidential race himself.

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Polls show that Republican primary voters want more options in a race that includes former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, as well as ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others.

In the wake of the decisions by Barbour and Huckabee to skip the race, the clamoring among establishment Republicans for Daniels to run — including from the Bush family circle — had become ear-shattering.

"The counsel and encouragement I received from important citizens like you caused me to think very deeply about becoming a national candidate," Daniels said in the e-mail message.

"If you feel that this was a non-courageous or unpatriotic decision, I understand and will not attempt to persuade you otherwise," he added. "I only hope that you will accept my sincerity in the judgment I reached."

Daniels, himself, had sounded more optimistic about a run in the past week than he had in months, though he never had sounded particularly enthused. And his advisers had been quietly reaching out to Republicans in Iowa and other early nominating states for private conversations.

Family ties
But, as he talked about a candidacy, he always pointed back to his family as the primary issue that would hold him back.

And as he weighed a bid, the spotlight shown on his unusual marital history as well as his record as governor.

His wife, Cheri, filed for divorce in 1993 and moved to California to remarry, leaving him to raise their four daughters in Indiana. She later divorced, and she and Daniels reconciled and remarried in 1997.

Story: Gov. Daniels' wife mum on husband's White House plans

Mrs. Daniels had never taken much of a public role in her husband's political career.

So it raised eyebrows when she was chosen as the keynote speaker at a major Indiana fundraiser earlier in May.

Story: Indiana first lady tests waters with rare speech

Both husband and wife were said to be pleased with the reception they got, and advisers privately suggested that the outcome could encourage Daniels to run for president. Even so, Republicans in Washington and Indiana with ties to Daniels put the odds at 50/50.

A former budget director under George W. Bush, Daniels used his time considering a run to also shine a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt — even though his former boss grew the scope of government and federal spending during his tenure.

Daniels, a one-time senior executive at Eli Lilly & Co., caused a stir among cultural conservatives by saying the next president facing economic crisis "would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues."

He is looked with admiration in GOP circles for being the rare Republican who won office in a Democratic year — 2008 — in a state that Obama had won. And, since being re-elected, he has leveraged Republican majorities in the state Legislature to push through a conservative agenda.

Daniels made his intentions clear in a characteristically understated e-mail.

It was sent by the governor through Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Republican Party chairman and one of Daniels' closest advisers, and confirmed by others close to the governor on the condition of anonymity to avoid publicly pre-empting his announcement.

It ended: "Many thanks for your help and input during this period of reflection. Please stay in touch if you see ways in which an obscure Midwestern governor might make a constructive contribution to the rebuilding of our economy and our Republic."

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

Video: Mitch Daniels skips White House bid

  1. Closed captioning of: Mitch Daniels skips White House bid

    >>> today's politics and an announcement from mitch daniels that he will not run for president in 2012 . it leaves another hole to fill in the gop field. here with more insight is david fwregry, moderate aror of "meet the press." good morning. great to see you. daniels dropped this after midnight, an overnight announcement. in the end i was able to resolve every competing consideration but one, the interests and wishes of my family, is the most important of all. i think we're less than eight months from the first voting in the whole primary season. where does this leave the gop? the party establishment really wanted to see daniels throw his hat in.

    >> mitt romney , tim pawlenty , they will be the happiest about this. it leaves more room for them, more opportunities to raise money. daniels was seen in many quarters as kind of the candidate on the white horse who was going to come in and buck up this field that a lot of primary voters were not all that hot about. and he had the right message, the right year, fiscal discipline, governor from indiana. he had a lot going for him. i think the consideration was important. his wife, sherry, had split with daniels years ago, then they reconciled and remarried. and i think, frankly, they didn't want to go through all the personal scrutiny that was coming their way.

    >> you mentioned tim pawlenty . he's been on the sidelines. tomorrow he will make it it official, i understand.

    >> he's going to get into the race, the official step of him doing that. he's somebody who in many ways is getting there behind mitt romney , working for the more populous wing of the party, hoping to play big in iowa. the former governor of minnesota. also somebody who has the ability to flip and be a good southern candidate as well. with huckabee out of the race, lester, there really is no southern candidate, somebody who will feel the debates of the party.

    >> let me turn your attention to president and foreign policy -- he gave the big speech last week about israel , his vision that israel should return to 67 borders as the basis for negotiations with the palestinians. now he has a speech to apec today. will this continue to be a tough sell? how will he it continue to frame this discussion?

    >> today he'll say there is no bigger ally for the israelis than the united states . and that israel 's security is paramount to the united states . that's what apec wants to hear. the israeli leader netanyahu is upset with him. the pictures you are showing now were remarkable. the fact the israeli leader would come in, in front of the cameras, and turn to the president, literally turn toward him and say, i disagree with you and this is why based on jewish history . and you look at the president's face where he's in some way being lectured to by the israeli leader. you know, this is a significant split. but the israelis and the obama administration are still stalwart allies and nothing is going to change that.

    >> all right, david. see you on "meet the press" later on.

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