Mitch Daniels is on a Goldilocks mission: Finding out whether the Senate is just right for the storied Republican’s deal-cutting style.
The former Indiana governor and Purdue University president embarked on a tour of Capitol Hill Wednesday to figure out whether running for his state’s open Senate seat makes sense, talking to senators both happy and frustrated with their jobs. Daniels has insisted politics is not on his mind, as conservatives line up behind potential primary rival Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.). He’s instead emphasized that he’s figuring out whether he’ll be happy with six years schlepping through the Capitol as the most junior senator in the building.
“I’m not the least bit worried, honestly, about losing an election. I’m worried about winning it and regretting it for six years,” Daniels said Wednesday after meeting with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.). “I say this with great respect for those who do it. But you know, that doesn’t mean it fits me or fits me at this time of my life. So that’s what this field trip’s about.”
Daniels’ decision will reverberate across the Republican Party, from towns and cities of Indiana to Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump Jr. has already attacked the more centrist Daniels, and the former governor jumping into the race will only prompt more flak from the right.
Daniels is facing attacks from the deep-pocketed Club for Growth, which is trying to keep him out of the race in favor of Banks. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have endorsed Banks, as well.
Daniels repeatedly said he’s not worried about political support: “That would take care of itself and we’re drowning in offers of help and money. I’ll say it again, I’m not worried about the election, I’m worried about winning it and deciding it was a mistake.”
A Banks-Daniels contest would amount to a major fight over the direction of the Senate GOP, particularly since the Republican nominee will be heavily favored to win the seat being vacated by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who is running for governor. Daniels is a former OMB director who famously called for a “truce” on the culture wars in 2010, while Banks is a pugnacious fighter on social issues and a leading voice among House conservatives.
Daniels is also expected to meet with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) during his visit. Daines has spoken to Banks as well.
The former governor said he’s going to make an announcement soon rather than drag out the drama.
“I don’t like to keep people waiting. I don’t like to dally, so you’ll know something, literally, in a very short time,” Daniels said. “This is the final stage of my discovery process.”