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Mitch Daniels opts out of 2012: Winners and losers
The Indiana governor won't seek the GOP presidential nomination. What does that mean for the rest of the field?
 
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, viewed by the GOP establishment as one of the party's most promising presidential prospects, officially opted out of the race Sunday.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, viewed by the GOP establishment as one of the party's most promising presidential prospects, officially opted out of the race Sunday.
Orjan F. Ellingvag/Dagens Naringsliv/Corbis

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) dropped some big news: He is not running for president. In an email to a select group of supporters, Daniels cited the "veto" of his wife and four daughters as an unsurmountable obstacle to his much-speculated-about presidential bid. Daniels is considered a "serious" fiscal conservative and establishment insider who — through his work as budget director for the George W. Bush administration — had access to deep-pocketed donors. Now that he's decided to sit this one out, who gets a boost and who takes a hit?

WINNERS

Mitt Romney
With Daniels out, Romney practically has the GOP nomination sealed up, says Michael Scherer at TIME. As much as the pundits love to declare the race wide open, Romney is "leading in the polls, leading in the money race," and fits the "longstanding GOP tradition" of last cycle's No. 2 getting the nod four years later. Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman are still threats to the former Massachusetts governor, says Nate Silver at The New York Times, but no Daniels means Romney has "one less Midwesterner to worry about in Iowa, and one less fiscal conservative in New Hampshire."

Tim Pawlenty
The biggest winner's name "almost rhymes with 'Small, ain't he?'" says Jon Fasman at The Economist. Daniels' exit leaves a "perfectly Pawlenty-sized" hole in the GOP field: "Mainstream Republicans need a port in the storm, and it looks like he's the only port available." The former Minnesota governor may not be exciting, but he rarely makes mistakes. "His 'Minnesota nice' qualities" will also play well in Iowa, says Alex Roarty at National Journal. Pawlenty is probably the prohibitive frontrunner there now, as the only Midwestern governor still in the running.

The Daniels family
"Would-be beltway kingmakers" love Daniels, but most voters don't know who he is, says Jazz Shaw at Hot Air. And with his family wanting to keep it that way, "it’s pretty hard to argue with the governor’s reasons" for sitting this one out. His wife, Cheri, is known to be particularly averse to having their "unusual" story — she left him for another man for four years in the '90s, before remarrying Daniels — under the glaring spotlight of a presidential run. And Daniels' four daughters were opposed, too, say Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin at Politico. Given the mistrust many social conservatives have for Daniels, it's ironic that he is "living by the 'family values' that conservative voters aspire to."

LOSERS

The Republican Party
Daniels was "the GOP's most promising reality-based presidential candidate," says Michael Grunwald at TIME. Romney and Huntsman are still at least "loosely tethered to reality" — but both have serious baggage. The GOP establishment is now in a "rather desperate presidential predicament," says John Guardiano at FrumForum. Without Daniels, they'll start desperately looking for another white knight. "That conservatives considered a 5-foot-7, 60-something, balding budget wonk one of their best chances to defeat President Obama is a testament" to just how pessimistic the GOP was already, says National Journal's Roarty.

Mitch Daniels
Declining to shoot for the White House was the decent thing to do, given his family's opposition, but "it has to be a bitter pill," says Matthew Tully in the Indianapolis Star. Daniels' note to supporters was "dripping with the sentiment of a man who desperately wanted to mix it up on the national stage." And while most candidacies don't end in the nomination, much less the presidency, this year's "political landscape was laid out in Daniels' favor — with a stunningly weak Republican field and an increased public concern about government spending, his core issue."

American politics
"I haven't paid enough attention to Mitch Daniels to know whether he'd make a good president, but it would have been nice to see him make his case," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. His perfectly valid reason for sitting out points to a larger problem, though. The cliché that "anyone who would willingly subject himself and his family to their process has proven he shouldn't be president" is way overstated, but it carries an unfortunate grain of truth. We'll get better crops of candidates once we accept that politicians are humans, and many "personal foibles" are just none of our business.

 

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