- Associated Press - Thursday, April 28, 2011

It’s anybody’s guess which Mitch Daniels will be holding the pen when it comes time to sign or veto an Indiana bill that cuts off $3 million a year in federal funding to Planned Parenthood in the state - the most restrictive such measure in the country.

Indiana’s Republican governor is a fiscal hawk who may not want to put at risk another $4 million a year in federal family-planning grants that probably would be cut off because of the bill. But he’s also a potential presidential candidate in 2012 who may need to prove to GOP primary voters that he really is an anti-abortion social conservative.

Mr. Daniels‘ dilemma comes as the state legislature this week wraps up a session that otherwise handed him a slate of accomplishments ready-made for a presidential campaign. A fastidious policy wonk who put fiscal priorities ahead of social issues, he could find the discussion a distraction as he tests a presidential campaign honed solely on an economic message.

Gov. Daniels has not determined what he’ll do and has asked staff to research the bill,” spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said.

The bill would be a significant victory for anti-abortion activists if Mr. Daniels signs it.

The measure - it is the nation’s first to cut off Planned Parenthood’s federal funding - ends $3 million in tax dollars the state distributes for family-planning and health programs. It also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there is a substantial threat to the woman’s life or health and requires that women seeking an abortion be told that life begins at conception.

But if the bill is enacted, the state probably would forfeit $4 million it receives in federal family-planning funding, leaving an estimated 22,000 low-income residents without access to such services.

“I would hope he would sign it,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican, said when asked about the bill after a foreign policy speech that previewed his own expected White House run.

“I can’t imagine any other organization with its roots as poisonous as the roots of Planned Parenthood getting federal funding of any kind,” he said.

Mr. Daniels was not expected to comment until the bill arrives on his desk. He will have seven calendar days once he receives the bill to take action. He could allow it to become law without his signature.

Signing the measure might help Mr. Daniels‘ chances at winning the GOP nomination. He opposes abortion rights but has advised his party to keep its focus on the economy. In urging a “truce” on social issues, he has drawn the ire of the social conservatives.

“Only Nixon could go to China. Only someone with a proven pro-life record can talk to the Republican base about the need to prioritize fiscal issues,” said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman.

Yet if Mr. Daniels signs the bill, it could hurt him among independent voters in a head-to-head contest with President Obama.

“The reality is: Everyone over the age of 12 in America has a position on abortion. The worst thing that any political person can do is to think they’re going to be the one who will finesse this and please everybody,” said Republican strategist Rich Galen, who describes himself as a Daniels fan.

“What he will do is to decide what’s best for Indiana,” Mr. Galen said. “If he decides what’s best for Indiana is to take the net hit, that’s what he’ll do. I think at some point, America may be looking for what’s best for the majority of the people they represent rather than what’s best for their next fundraiser.”