Daniels fallout: How will Mitch decision affect GOP race? 

I spoke to a number of political types in Washington on Saturday night, and there was a near consensus that Mitch Daniels would run for president.  (I thought that, too.)  The major question was how candidate Daniels would present and explain the episode in the 1990s in which his wife Cheri, mother of their four young daughters, left him, married another man, and later returned to Daniels. But most people thought the issue could be successfully handled, possibly with a holding-hands "60 Minutes" interview in which Mitch and Cheri Daniels explained what happened, showed their love for one another, and said the issue had nothing to do with how he would perform as president.

But even as the political types were discussing a Daniels candidacy, Daniels himself was finishing up a statement in which he announced he would not run.  And the only reason he specifically stated for his decision was that his wife and daughters did not want him to be a candidate. "What could have been a complicated decision was in the end very simple," Daniels said in a statement to the Indianapolis Star.  "On matters affecting us all, our family constitution gives a veto to the women’s caucus, and there is no override provision. Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more."

Daniels also gave a second statement to the Star in which he defended his wife:

It is important to correct some factually incorrect accounts about the time when our family was divided. When Cheri and I parted, the court agreed with my view that our daughters’ best interests would be served by their staying in Indiana. Cheri and I were granted joint custody. Within a short time, she purchased a residence just a few minutes from our house. Until we remarried, we shared custody fully, the girls dividing their time between the two homes.

The notion that Cheri ever did or would "abandon" her girls or parental duty is the reverse of the truth and absurd to anyone who knows her, as I do, to be the best mother any daughter ever had.

Whatever the reason for Daniels' decision, the fact is that his expected candidacy will not happen.  How will that affect the race for the Republican presidential nomination?  Discussing the matter with representatives of the various candidates Sunday morning, most think it will help their own candidate.  No surprises there.  But the most important point the campaign reps make is that they now believe, regardless of how much some Republicans want to see a new candidate get in the race, that the GOP field is set.

"I expect that there will still be a lot of folks looking for a new candidate," says one person close to a leading candidate.  "Christie, Jeb, Ryan -- but I don't expect any of them to do it."  "The field is set," says another adviser.  Talk about another candidate, the adviser said, is limited to "the chattering class."

At the moment, it appears certain that Rep. Michele Bachmann will enter the race, but the advisers do not appear to view her as a potentially major presence like New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, or House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan.

Meanwhile, Democrats have already taken Daniels' decision as an opportunity to take a shot at the current GOP field.  "We've disagreed with Mitch Daniels myriad times, but there’s no doubt that his decision not to enter this race is a loss for Republicans," the Indiana Democratic Party said in a statement Sunday morning.  "Daniels would have brought a serious tone to a GOP field that's thus far been characterized by silliness and distraction."

About The Author

Byron York


Byron York is the Examiner’s chief political correspondent. His column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He blogs throughout the week at Beltway Confidential.

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