Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels may have decided against a run for president, but his supporters are determined to make sure that his message continues to play a role in the race.
If Daniels entered the race for the White House, the ardent budget hawk would have made the threat America’s national debt poses to the country his defining issue. In order to keep that issue at the forefront of the national debate, Students for Daniels has renamed itself Students for Solvency, and plans to repurpose its infrastructure to lobby Congress and presidential candidates.
“This is the issue that speaks to our generation,” said Michael Knowles, a rising senior at Yale who founded the group with Max Eden, who graduated from Yale in May.
The original purpose of the group was to encourage a run by Daniels and to promote awareness of the governor and his issues. But when Daniels announced in May that he would not run, the group, Knowles said, “was left with the question of what to do.”
Before he made his decision, the governor “had some pretty wise words for us,” Knowles said. “This is about a cause and not a candidate,” Daniels told Knowles, adding, “you have to keep going if I choose not to.”
That is exactly what the group has decided to do. The organization already had an infrastructure of 68 chapters on campuses across the country, and had been getting a fair amount of media attention. Loathe to squander all that, they decided that rather than immediately endorse another candidate, as some members wanted, they would become an issues PAC focusing on the national debt.
“We don’t want to lose this momentum and influence that we have too soon,” said Knowles.
There doesn’t seem to be much danger of that. “Right after Mitch said he wasn’t going to run, Max and I had emails from the remaining campaigns asking for endorsements,” said Knowles.
Most recently, he said, they spoke with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. They’ve also spoken to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Knowles said they were still talking to the various campaigns, and that they were “keeping a very open mind.”
“We might endorse nobody, we might endorse somebody,” he said.
But, he said, they have been encouraged by how so many of the other candidates “have come out and said, ‘we’re sorry that Mitch is gone. We want to pick up the mantle where he left off.’”
Knowles said an endorsement would happen “if one of those candidates is willing to make that issue one of their priorities and give our generation a say in the campaign.”
Though they haven’t decided on who they would endorse, there are some candidates they are fairly certain they would not endorse: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Palin resigning as governor before her term had ended removed her from serious consideration. Gingrich’s poor fiscal record did the same for him, Knowles said.
“I don’t think there’s going to be another Mitch Daniels that comes to us,” Knowles said. But, he added, “we live in reality. We need a real candidate to push this issue.”