Alternate headline: “Apparently, Mitch Daniels not running for president.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels signaled this afternoon that Republicans should drop the right-to-work bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures.

Daniels told reporters this afternoon that he expected House Democrats will return to work if the bill dies. It would be unfortunate if other bills are caught up in the turmoil, he said.

He will not send out state police to corral the Democrats, the Republican governor said.

Daniels claims the Star mischaracterized his comments, insisting that he didn’t tell the legislature to drop the bill but merely said that, in his opinion, they should wait until next term. Why wait? Because, according to Daniels, the right-to-work bill is a big enough deal that it shouldn’t be taken up unless voters are expecting a debate on it. And because the GOP didn’t campaign on it last fall, voters aren’t expecting it this term. Which … is an interesting “good government” principle, but not a convincing one. If you have a legislative advantage, why not press it to advance your agenda and let the public deal with you at the polls next cycle? That’s precisely how the Democrats passed ObamaCare. And yes, they paid dearly for it, but while congressional majorities may come and go, our new health-care law will quite possibly be with us forever. Mitch the Knife, as he’s known for his budget-slashing ways, should be especially prepared to act on big-ticket items when he has the chance, whether they’ve been fully debated in a campaign or not. If he faces off with Obama next year as the nominee, there’s no telling what issue will drive the election: Maybe it’ll be entitlements (in which case we’ll lose) or maybe it’ll be the Middle East or maybe it’ll be something else entirely. If the Medicare debate gets crowded out during the campaign, would a President Daniels refuse to address it because he and The One didn’t talk much about it on the stump?

Mind you, one of Daniels’s very first acts as governor in 2005 was to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights, which is proof enough that he’s not a squish on labor. (He also expressed support for Scott Walker just yesterday.) Still, it’s unfathomable to me that he’d decline to press hard on unions at a moment when (a) conservatives are hoping to build nationwide momentum against PEUs and (b) the Democratic caucus in Indiana has decided to skip town to obstruct the process there too. At the very least, he could have phrased this as, “I’d prefer to wait until next term to take this up, but if Democrats can’t be bothered to show up, let’s go forward.” Instead, you’ll hear him promise in the clip not to send any state troopers after them, which already has Geraghty (among others) questioning his toughness. Does this guy want to be nominated, despite his apparent willingness to alienate social conservatives and now fiscal conservatives? Or is this final proof that he’s not running after all? Click the image to listen.