Mitch Daniels: Weak candidates hurt GOP drive for Senate

Republicans fell short of winning control of the Senate because of some weak candidates, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told The Hill.

“We didn't turn up the strongest candidates,” Daniels, who some think might contend for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, said in response to a question about the Senate tally.

Tea Party-backed Republican candidates in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada were defeated Tuesday. Overall, Republicans gained six seats.

Republicans needed to win 10 seats to take the Senate. They had an excellent chance of picking up Vice President Joe Biden’s former seat in Delaware before Christine O’Donnell defeated centrist Republican Rep. Mike Castle in a primary. Democrat Chris Coons ended up handily defeating O'Donnell.

Sharron Angle and Ken Buck in Nevada and Colorado, respectively, also stumbled at times on the campaign trail.

In an interview with The Hill, Daniels warned Democrats they’d be wrong to assume they lost their House majority solely because of the recession.

He said voters had “recoiled from the advancement of state power” as reflected through policies pushed by Democrats.

With the election over, politicians should now focus on growing the economy, Daniels said, adding that Washington should “quit talking about raising taxes and get serious about spending restraint.”

Daniels said he believed the parties could come together on some issues: “It's in the interest of everyone.”

“Debt is heading for terrifying levels if we don't grow the economy,” the former budget director for President Bush said.

Daniels urged President Obama to reduce the national debt by tackling entitlement reform, including raising the retirement age for Social Security.

He also said Obama should spend less than what Congress appropriates when revenues are low and reduce regulations that hamper business.

“He could tell his agencies to give America a reprieve in regulations they are working on, and he could tell the EPA, ‘No, we're not going to start regulating carbon dioxide,'” Daniels said.

Daniels said cuts to defense spending should be on the table: “We need to take a really hard look at the missions we've undertaken.”

Asked about 2012, Daniels said he was “not focusing” on the presidential race. “I know people do this dance,” he said before pivoting back to the economy.

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