Elected Officials and Mitch Daniels and State Government and Federal Government and Government & Economic Development and Government

Daniels works to maintain national profile

September 5, 2011
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Since he decided against running for president in May, Gov. Mitch Daniels has given more interviews on national television than when he was still considering a run. Although he has said no to the top of the presidential ticket, he has not ruled out running for vice president.

Daniels made at least seven appearances on national television in August. One talked about the Aug. 13 state fair stage collapse, while the other six focused on the 2012 presidential campaign, his job as governor and his new book, which is due out this week.

In many ways, Daniels is a natural for the cable news circuit. He spent much of his career working in Washington, first for U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, then President Ronald Reagan and finally President George W. Bush. His years working inside the Capitol Beltway have allowed him to trade on pre-existing relationships and better pitch his story about governing Indiana.

Over seven days in August, he appeared on "Fox and Friends" to talk about the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" to talk about the economy and his new book and NBC's "Meet the Press" to talk about the 2012 presidential candidates.

A spokeswoman for NBC-Universal declined to say whether the network reached out to Daniels or his team pitched him for an appearance on "Meet the Press." ''Washington Journal" producers sought out Daniels specifically to pontificate on the economy and his book, C-SPAN communications director Howard Mortman said in an email.

"It's an area he's uniquely qualified to speak on, having been head of the OMB and having demonstrated in Indiana that you can take a very conservative approach to spending tax dollars," said Mark Lubbers, one of Daniels' closest friends and political confidants.

Ironically, Daniels' decision not to run for president has made it easier for him to do national interviews because that question no longer dominates the media attention, Lubbers said.

Now, his publisher, Penguin, is pushing him for interviews to pump up interest in the book, "Keeping the Republic," which details, among other things, a fiscal plan for running America.

Darrell West, director of governance studies of at the Brookings Institution, said there may be more than just book sales in the works.

"He's keeping his name in the news, which is the perfect strategy to become vice presidential nominee," West said.

Daniels wouldn't be the first Hoosier considered as a running mate. Former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh was on Barack Obama's short list as late as August 2008, just weeks before the Democratic Party's nominating convention. And Republican Dan Quayle, then the junior senator from Indiana, actually got the nod when George H.W. Bush tapped him as his running mate in 1988. Thomas Marshall filled the role under Woodrow Wilson.

Though Daniels said his family opposed a presidential run, he's deflected questions about a vice presidential candidacy in multiple interviews since May.

Democrats say Daniels' many national appearances suggest he is spending more time looking for his next job than focusing on the state for his final months in office.

"Obviously, he wants a role nationally, but he needs to fix some of the problems he's created here before he starts looking at that," said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker.

Daniels' spokeswoman said the governor turns down most of the requests he receives for speaking engagements.

"The governor has long been sought for interviews, appearances and to write columns because of his accomplishments and ideas," spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said. "He's continued to do some interviews, speaking engagements and opinion pieces that give him a chance to brag about Indiana."

The bragging continues to sound much like a campaign speech — including the requisite spin.

Daniels told business leaders at a West Virginia Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week that he successfully capped property taxes across the state. He omitted the fact that he helped pay for the caps by raising the state sales tax to 7 percent.

Daniels also told the crowd that Indiana had "no unfunded pension liabilities" except for outstanding payments to the state's teachers. The executive director of the state's pension system, however, told a legislative panel last month that Indiana has $14 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

And in the Aug. 29 issue of conservative weekly "Human Events," Daniels touted Indiana's spending cuts and leaner government — without acknowledging that Indiana governors, unlike other governors or the president, don't need legislative approval to cut the budget.

"If our Indiana experience tells us anything, it's that many in our political class overestimate the degree of difficulty in diving into the excess government we have stacked up in America these last few decades," Daniels wrote.

It sounds ready-made for a campaign trail.

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