Mitch Daniels passes on 2012 run

It may go down as one of the more ironic turns on the 2012 campaign trail. The one man who seemed to have the world beating a path to his door, offering to largely pay his tab for fundraising, some essentially begging him to toss his hat in the ring, was the one guy who honestly didn’t want to do it and had good reasons to decline. Mitch Daniels issues his “no thank you” for a presidential run.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told supporters in an email early Sunday that he will not run for president in 2012, a decision he said ultimately came down to his family’s reticence about a campaign.

The announcement by the former Office of Management and Budget director and favorite of much of the Republican establishment will again roil the unsettled GOP field—and likely intensify efforts to convince another major candidate to join the race, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The e-mail he sent to supporters was short and polite, but to the point.

“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. If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry.”

This will come as a disappointment to a lot of establishment party regulars who seemed to see Mitch as their next best hope. (Though not to the more energized wings of the base who are lining up behind their own favorites, some of whom are seen as more dark horse candidates.) But in the end, it’s pretty hard to argue with the governor’s reasons. Running for President is a draining, 24/7 affair and it affects their entire family, not just the candidate. If his wife and the rest of the Daniels clan were seriously opposed to it before he even got out of the gate, it would drain a lot of the fire out of his belly. (Or that of any potential nominee.)

The exit question, just as it was with the last several high profile departures, is who does this benefit? Will Mitch be endorsing anyone else any time soon or just taking more of a Haley Barbour approach and “support the eventual nominee?” Since he was never officially in the race, which segment of the base is left looking for a home, if any? Honestly, I didn’t see that much buzz about him outside of would-be beltway kingmakers. Call me crazy, but I really don’t think an exit by Daniels shakes up the early stages of the race all that much.

Update (Ed): In the beginning of this cycle, I expected the GOP to nominate a hypercompetent successful executive as the logical contrast to Barack Obama’s inexperienced incompetence.  So who has dropped out of the running early?  Three multi-term governors: Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels.  If the field doesn’t change after Monday when Tim Pawlenty officially enters the race, that will leave him as the hypercompetent executive choice against Mitt Romney’s money and established inside position.

Of course, the field could change.  Sarah Palin could enter it, which seems more likely than not, and she already has an energized base.  Rick Perry might take notice of the room in the field for multi-term successful governors and for Southern candidates.  Daniels’ withdrawal makes a candidacy from both more attractive.

I’m not terribly surprised that Daniels came to this decision, though.  He didn’t seem terribly enthusiastic about having his family history turned into campaign fodder, and I can’t say as I blame him.