IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

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

Indiana first lady Cheri Daniels gave no hints about whether her husband, Gov. Mitch Daniels, will run for president.
Image: Mitch Daniels, Cheri Daniels
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.Darron Cummings / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

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.

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.

'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.

"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.

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."