Daniels finishes low in weekend straw poll

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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has a lot of catching up to do if he is to become a viable Republican presidential candidate, according to a straw poll taken over the weekend.

Daniels spoke to a dinnertime audience Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where he stressed fiscal restraint while reiterating his call for a truce on “so-called social issues.”

He has said he won't announce a decision on a White House bid until after the Legislature wraps up in April and that his acceptance of the invitation to address the conference wasn’t an indication of how he's leaning.

Though his message received high marks from several political pundits, he earned just 4 percent of the straw poll vote. Texas congressman Ron Raul won with 30 percent of the vote, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who received 23 percent of the vote.

Still, Brian Vargus, a political science professor at IUPUI, said the poll results shouldn’t dissuade Daniels’ supporters. A total of 3,742 people, about a third of total CPAC attendees, voted in the poll.

“That’s not surprising with that group because he’s been kind of feuding with them over social issues,” Vargus said. “It’s been pretty well captured by highly social conservatives and many evangelicals, so they’re really concerned about those [social] issues that Mitch didn’t want to talk about.”

The slate of potential Republican presidential candidates remains crowded. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty all received votes—and finished in the poll ahead of Daniels.

Daniels, however, bested former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, businessman Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Palin and Huckabee, projected to be among the GOP's top candidates if they decide to run, did not attend the conference.

“You can never underestimate him,” Vargus said of Daniels. “He’s a very shrewd guy.”

A year before the Iowa caucuses, the GOP base hasn't rallied around any one person and it doesn't seem all that enthusiastic about its options — even though more than a dozen Republicans, and counting, are considering candidacies.

So, what does the GOP base want?

Ask anyone who attended the gathering, and you'd hear something like this: a dynamic conservative with a backbone who can win.

“That's it. But there's nobody who meets that criteria,” added Bill Hemrick, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman who founded Tea Party HD, a conservative media company. He said the only two who even come close — Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann — “aren't electable.”

In short, no one is like Ronald Reagan.

Stated or not, there's a concern among GOP insiders that it may take someone of Reagan's caliber to beat President Obama, who remains personally popular despite stubbornly high unemployment and a series of divisive legislative accomplishments.

It says a lot about the likely field, for instance, that conservative pundits and right-leaning activists keep encouraging Republicans who have ruled out 2012 bids to get in the race, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Also telling: Billionaire reality show star Donald Trump and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a once-failed presidential candidate who is leaving the door open to a reprisal, were the biggest hits at the conservative confab among Republicans trying out for the chance to take on Obama.

A veteran on the national stage, Romney, who lost in 2008 but is gearing up for a second bid, robustly delivered a general-election-like speech that was almost exclusively an indictment against Obama.

“If I decide to run for president, it won't take me two years to wake up to the job crisis threatening America,” Romney said, earning standing ovations and hearty applause from a capacity crowd.

He ignored what conservatives consider arguably his biggest black mark — the Massachusetts health care law that Obama partly modeled the national one after.

Pawlenty, who also is likely to announce a run soon, delivered a speech equal parts assailing Obama's policies and promoting his own positions. He drew cheers throughout from the standing-room-only audience, including when saying: “We need more common sense and less Obama nonsense.”

He also emphasized his efforts to keep taxes low, seeking to subtlety counter a blemish on his record that he didn't mention — backing increases on cigarettes.

A packed hotel ballroom also gave a warm reception to Thune, who is said to be less certain than others about running. The lone senator among the crop, Thune said he'd continue to be “on the front lines voting no” when Democrats try to push a liberal agenda; it's a pitch that could either serve as his argument for or against a candidacy.

Daniels, meanwhile, clearly entertained the dinnertime audience, with a policy-heavy address that was peppered with lighter moments as it drew on lessons learned in his state.

He didn't back down from his remark maligned by conservatives that the next president facing economic crisis “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.” Rather, he encouraged conservatives to broaden their reach, saying: “Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers.”


  • Out with Daniels & those that Voted to Tax hikes to Pay for LUCs Oil Stadium
    Good News Indiana Voters in the 2010 Midterm Passed a State Cap Tax
    Now would be a good thing to get the New Government to force the NFL And the Colts to pay back the Million in taxes raised to Pay for and to help maintain the Lucs Oil Stadium, it should never been done to start with Not as the NFL Makes Millions a year,
    Bend over to Help them,

    I mean come on 90% of the thing made fans buy that is to support the So called American Sport of NFL and the Stinking Colts is made in waht Nations with What Nations resources that are American Job they say they are going to make.

    Yet Still draging leaderships feet with the thousands of Veterans many that been awaiting back pay or never gotten anything that have so earned such in the line of penssions left Homesless in jails and forgotten, after what the Clintons re write of the draft act so did back in the 1990â??s, as of to date Troops are being rejected of any help or pension in honor of such Clinton views, The Military is putting men and Woman out of the Army for Said prior Health problem so as to get out of Taking care of them as say like PTSD
  • Good finish
    Mitch did well in his next to last finish. It's a good thing he didn't appeal to those crack pot Tea Party jerks. This is good news for Mitch. Get him in front of mainstream Americans and he will shine like he should.
  • Daniels should stick to his message and let the voters find him
    I don't want to find him!
  • Most Reaganlike
    What the country needs - and the GOP - is someone who is Reaganesque. I'm not a "My Man Mitch" fanboy but he could be the one!
  • sad comment
    Daniel's standing in the straw poll probably doesn't mean much - it is much too early in the process. It doesn't say much for the viability of a Republican candidate though, if a fiscally conservative/socially moderate candidate with broad appeal at home cannot do well among the base because of the litmous test of the social conservatives' "moral agenda".

    Too many Republican candidates have had to reinvent themselves for the primaries (McCain and Dole come to mind) and ultimately alienated moderate/independent voters. People want something more than immigration bashing,gay bashing and name calling from their presidential candidates. Mitch Daniels should stick to his message and let the voters find him.
  • Everything is Relative
    In a contest where Rand Paul is the winner, maybe getting just 4% of the vote is a good thing.
  • Daniels would raise the intelligence level of debate in 2012
    No matter what you think about Gov. Daniels, if he were the Republican nominee, it would raise the level of intelligent debate in this country about the issues that actually matter. It's refreshing to see a Republican who actually talks intelligently about the issues of the day instead of pandering to the fringe conservative masses by focusing on scare tactics and inconsequential social issues.
  • Important to note...
    At CPAC, attendees can vote in the straw poll at any time in the first two days. Governor Daniels didn't present his speech until the end of the second day. Many voters arrive at CPAC and vote immediately. Thus, I could imagine the Governor's numbers being somewhat higher if the voting was done entirely on the third day. He still wouldn't be higher than Paul or Romney, but he may have moved up a few spaces, perhaps garnering 6-7% of the vote.
  • Gov. Daniels winning NRO's CPAC poll
    Governor Daniels is currently winning the National Review's Online (NRO) Conservative Political Action Caucus (CPAC) poll http://www.nationalreview.com/

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