Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) disagreed with several of the GOP White House contenders after Thursday nights GOP debate, saying President Obama is not a socialist.

During the debate, most of the candidates described the president that way.

When asked Friday if he thought Obama had pursued socialist policies, Daniels laughed wryly and simply said, “No.”

He also used the opportunity to warn the contenders to be more careful with their rhetoric.

“At some stage I just think that if you’re interested in results you should just try to be careful to use words that don’t drive anybody away and if possible just take a chance to be more civil, more likeable than the other guy,” said Daniels, who added that he did not see Thursday’s debate. 

“The perfectly human temptation is to match insult for insult and strong language for strong language and it feels good for about 10 minutes — but then you realize you probably didn’t add anybody to your point of view,” he said during a breakfast with reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

Several conservatives have charged that the president’s economic policies, especially his call for the wealthy to pay more taxes, show he is a socialist.

Daniels, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, has also earned conservative ire with his stance on social issues.

The governor, who decided earlier this year not to run for president, said that while he thought a year ago that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) would not have been a strong presidential candidate, the political situation has shifted radically since then. 

“I’d have thought, Another Texan so soon? But boy, do things look different now,” he said. “It’s not about Rick, it’s sort of about where he’s from, but now as desperate as the national situation is I think the door is open.”

He also said that Perry’s centrist stance on immigration is “not going to be a stopper” for him in the GOP primary.

During the breakfast, Daniels warned that while any Republican “who can breathe and speak English” might be able to beat Obama in the next election because of the president’s sliding poll numbers, the problems America faces are so serious that it is important to find the right candidate. 

“If it were more normal times, as a partisan I’d say, ‘That’s fine,’” he said of Obama’s decreasing popularity and the GOP field. “Winning the next election without having really prepared the country and rallying the country to go do some big things would really be a lost opportunity.”

He said Obama’s 2008 campaign should be a guiding force for what Republicans should not do this time around.

“That non-specific charisma campaign is not what I hope we as the opposition mount next time,” he said. “The situation is way too important for that.”
Daniels, who is promoting a new book, “Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans,” did not completely shut the door on accepting a vice presidential nomination but became agitated when asked about the possibility.

He said he was becoming tired of the question. He also said he had no timetable for making his own endorsement for president. 

Daniels has endorsed his former boss Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), in the Republican primary against Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock. While being careful not to criticize the Tea Party movement, he called Lugar  a “mentor” and an “extraordinary public servant.”

“I’m not sure he’s in that much trouble,” Daniels said. “My sense is he’s likely to win, he’s working hard and he’s an icon in our state.”

When asked about the deep-pocketed fiscally conservative Club for Growth, which is targeting Lugar for defeat, Daniels was circumspect.

“All is fair game,” he said. “I regret the tactics that are often used but it’s not for me to say that people with a strong point of view ought not to be able to express it and participate.”

— This story was updated at 11:47 a.m.