Calls renew for Mitch Daniels to enter presidential race

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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After the first three electoral contests for the Republican nomination have produced three different winners, some Republicans unsatisfied with the Republican field are calling for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to jump into the race.

An online petition for the Indiana governor to “Run, Mitch, Run!” launched at 8 p.m. Saturday evening, shortly after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was declared the winner of the South Carolina primary.

Over 1,000 people have since signed the petition to date.

Word that Daniels, who publicly announced he would not seek the GOP presidential nomination back in June, might reconsider was sparked when Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol published a blog post Thursday imagining Daniels announcing his candidacy when he gives the official Republican response to the State of the Union address on Tuesday. Daniels’s office told Indiana’s RTV6 that the speech the governor planned to give Tuesday was different than the one Kristol imagined.

Nonetheless, some who previously sought Daniels to run reacted with enthusiasm.

“The excitement was immediate and widespread when we heard that he might reconsider his presidential decision,” emailed Matt McKillip, a former chapter chair for Students for Daniels who is involved in with trying to revive Daniels’ candidacy.

“If there’s even a chance that he might reconsider, we want to do our best to show him how enthusiastic the support for him remains. With over 1275 signatures in the first 24 hours of the petition being out online (starting on a Saturday night nonetheless) tells us we’re not alone!” McKillip said.

Spearheading the effort is “a number of former Students for Daniels members who never found a suitable alternative to our man Mitch,” McKillip said.

The petition itself arose somewhat spontaneously, said Michael Knowles, political director for Students for Solvency, which was previously known as Students for Daniels before Daniels declined to run in June.

“Not only was this not organized by the Daniels organization, it was not organized by the Students for Daniels organization,” Knowles told TheDC. Some of the people involved were members of the organization, like McKillip, while others were not, Knowles said, though Students for Solvency/Daniels was in full support of it.

Though the “Run, Mitch, Run!” petition was launched in the immediate aftermath of Gingrich’s South Carolina victory, McKillip said the petition was not necessarily a direct reaction to the win. It was, he says, “influenced by the realization that there would be no consensus in the minds of GOP voters after the first three primaries.”

“The assumption that the race is merely a coronation for Mitt Romney has been vaporized — and the reality that this race won’t be over for at least a few months means that there is an opening for a historic late entrant,” he added.

Moreover, McKillip said, there was a dissatisfaction with the other GOP contenders for not sufficiently addressing America’s debt problem, something Daniels has stressed as a new “red menace” for the country.

Knowles said he knew a Daniels candidacy was a long shot, but that “if you wanted to probe into my wildest dreams, I think he has a great case to make.”

“He would have an organization in place within a matter of a week or two,” Knowles said, adding that Daniels would be the “conservative standard bearer” if he entered, a role he believes the Republican field is struggling to fill.

Daniels openly considered a presidential run back in June, but decided against it citing family concerns.

A source close to Daniels said that the governor would not reconsider. Asked whether he had heard anything to suggest Daniels was having a change of heart, the source emailed:: “Nope. And he won’t. That was just wishful thinking by Bill Kristol the other day.”

Pete Seat, communications director for the Indiana Republican Party, declined to comment.

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