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Indiana GOP chair: Daniels to help shape 2012 debate

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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will continue to influence the national debate surrounding the 2012 presidential campaign even though he isn't a candidate, the leader of Indiana's Republican Party said Monday.

Daniels said in a statement over the weekend that he won't run for president, citing concerns for his wife, Cheri, and their four daughters.

State Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb told reporters on a conference call Monday that speculation of Daniels as a vice presidential candidate is hypothetical and wouldn't drive the governor's plans.

Holcomb acknowledged that a vice presidential run presents some similar obstacles as a presidential run but that he won't "take it off the table" for Daniels.

Daniels hasn't publicly addressed what's in store for him next. A Daniels spokeswoman said he was unavailable for comment Monday. Daniels has a public appearance scheduled Tuesday at an Indiana Education Roundtable meeting, where he's sure to be asked about his future.

Holcomb said he expects Daniels to balance work as Indiana's governor while helping focus the 2012 debate on the fiscal issues Daniels considers the country's biggest problem.

"He'll continue to contribute in that way, to talk about the issues he felt were threatening the republic," Holcomb said.

Daniels said early Sunday in an email to supporters that he would not run because his family had vetoed the idea.

"The interests and wishes of my family is the most important consideration of all," he wrote. "If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry."

Holcomb threw cold water on the idea that Daniels might reconsider.

"I believe that decision is final," Holcomb said.

Holcomb said Daniels and his supporters would be watching to see which Republican candidates adequately address fiscal issues. He didn't point out any candidates by name that Daniels supporters might flock to, and said Daniels supporters may not move en masse to a single candidate.

Brian Vargus, a professor of political science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, expects Daniels to eventually endorse a Republican candidate and do some campaigning. He said he could end up with a cabinet position under a Republican president if he doesn't want to run for vice president.

In Indiana, Daniels will continue to pursue an aggressive legislative agenda in 2012, Holcomb predicted. Daniels cannot seek a third consecutive term, but he's not a typical lame duck governor. Republicans control both the House and Senate and legislative leaders support many of Daniels' initiatives.

Daniels will be better off than most lame duck governors because he's politically astute and has been a strong governor, said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

"People who have liked what he has done will be happy to know that he has the potential to get more done," Downs said. "People who have not liked what he has done may be disappointed in the next year and a half. He may find it difficult to move major, controversial items through, but he will be able to move quite a bit."

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