Mitch Daniels passes on Senate campaign

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) announced on Tuesday that he will not run for the Senate in his home state, dealing a recruiting blow to Republicans who had hoped he would enter the race.

In a lengthy statement, Daniels, 73, explained that he is not cut out to serve as a legislator or to live in Washington at this time in his life. 

“After what I hope was adequate reflection, I’ve decided not to become a candidate for the U.S. Senate. With full credit and respect for the institution and those serving in it, I conclude that it’s just not the job for me, not the town for me, and not the life I want to live at this point,” Daniels wrote.

“I have never imagined that I would be well-suited to legislative office, particularly where seniority remains a significant factor in one’s effectiveness, and I saw nothing in my recent explorations that altered that view,” Daniels said, adding that if he had run, he would only have done so for one term.

The announcement by Daniels concludes a month during which he considered running for the seat that Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) is vacating to run for governor. Daniels had spent the past decade as president of Purdue University after wrapping up his two terms as governor of the state. 

Part of that process involved visiting Capitol Hill last week. In Tuesday’s statement, Daniels explained that he wanted to see if he would enjoy being a senator after a career filled with serving in executive capacities. The ex-governor also said that he would have used the time during a single term in the Senate to deal with issues that matter to him, including safety net programs, the national debt, immigration and international affairs. 

Daniels decision also means that the Indiana primary battle may not be as nasty. A contest between Daniels and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) would have represented a proxy battle between the establishment and the MAGA wings of the party, with conservative forces lining up behind the sitting congressman. 

Among those was the Club for Growth, which launched a broadside against Daniels’s potential candidacy with a mid-January ad declaring that he is a figure of the past. 

“After 50 years in big government, big pharma and big academia, Mitch Daniels forgot how to fight,” a narrator says in the ad. “An old guard Republican clinging to the old ways of the bad old days.”

It has been reported that there is bad blood between Daniels and former Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.), the Club for Growth’s president who was boxed out of the 2004 Indiana governor’s race when Daniels entered with the backing of then-President George W. Bush.

Daniels stressed in his announcement that he would have worked to lower the “personal vitriol” and temperature across the nation’s political sphere.

“I would have tried to work on these matters in a way that might soften the harshness and personal vitriol that has infected our public square, rendering it not only repulsive to millions of Americans, but also less capable of effective action to meet our threats and seize our opportunities,” he said. 

His decision is also a blow to segments of the GOP that had pined for Daniels to enter the race, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as the Republican Party struggled with recruiting top-flight candidates in 2022. That was especially the case last cycle in attempting to cajole other current and former governors in key states, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), to launch bids. 

In a statement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee endorsed Banks for the seat. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chairman of the committee, said he is “looking forward to working with” Banks, whom he labeled “one of our top recruits this cycle” in order to keep the state in the Republican column next year. 

It also remains to be seen who else enters the GOP primary. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) is also reportedly considering a Senate campaign. 


Tags David McIntosh Indiana Mike Braun mitch daniels Steve Daines

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