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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daniels Out

The Republican received encouragement from all over the country, from tea party activists to elites. But in the end, his family concerns stood in the way.

Saturday night, Daniels said, "The counsel and encouragement I received from important citizens like you caused me to think very deeply about becoming a national candidate. In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one, but that, the interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all."

He went on: "If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry. If you feel that this was a non-courageous or unpatriotic decision, I understand and will not attempt to persuade you otherwise. I only hope that you will accept my sincerity in the judgment I reached."

Daniels' exit is welcome news to the campaigns of Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, who would have competed directly with him in New Hampshire and for many of the same donors.

Jonathan Martin writes at Politico:

Mitch Daniels’s overnight decision against a presidential bid will immediately raise the volume on the low-hum grumbling among Republican insiders that they’re gearing up to face President Obama with the weakest primary field in recent memory.

The pressure on a handful of Republicans who’ve insisted they won’t consider running but would be potentially strong alternatives to Mitt Romney will now significantly intensify, but the ultimate beneficiaries of Daniels’s absence may be two candidates already on course to run: Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.

At the moment, though, the Indiana governor’s exit illustrates the degree to which the GOP race is being shaped by who’s not running.

Consider the list of would-be candidates who’ve passed on a campaign in the last four months: Mike Pence, John Thune, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump and now Daniels.

Add Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Rick Perry – Republicans with star power who’ve said flatly they won’t run – and it translates into a GOP establishment deeply worried that the flawed options they’re left with won’t be any match for an incumbent president who seemingly won’t face a primary but is likely to shatter campaign fundraising records.

As Gabriel Sherman writes at New York, Roger Ailes is not happy:

And, for all his programming genius, he was more interested in a real narrative than a television narrative—he wanted to elect a president. All he had to do was watch Fox’s May 5 debate in South Carolina to see what a mess the field was—a mess partly created by the loudmouths he’d given airtime to and a tea party he’d nurtured. And, not incidentally, a strong Republican candidate would be good for his business, too. A few months ago, Ailes called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the race. Last summer, he’d invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes’s calls to run. Ailes had also hoped that David Petraeus would run for president, but Petraeus too has decided to sit this election out, choosing to stay on the counterterrorism front lines as the head of Barack Obama’s CIA. The truth is, for all the antics that often appear on his network, there is a seriousness that underlies Ailes’s own politics. He still speaks almost daily with George H. W. Bush, one of the GOP’s last great moderates, and a war hero, which especially impresses Ailes.

All the 2012 candidates know that Ailes is a crucial constituency. “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger,” one GOPer told me. “Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.” But he hasn’t found any of them, including the adults in the room—Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney—compelling. “He finds flaws in every one,” says a person familiar with his thinking.

“He thinks things are going in a bad direction,” another Republican close to Ailes told me. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of Obama is a disaster. He thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.”