- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2011

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels‘ decision to forgo a presidential bid has some Republicans openly pining for a choice other than Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty or Newt Gingrich.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, appearing on CNN on Sunday, said Mr. Daniels‘ decision left a lot of tea party activists disappointed.

“We’ll have to start looking, and I was just saying this morning maybe it’s time to start drafting Paul Ryan,” he said, referring to the Wisconsin congressman whose deficit-reduction plan has made him both a rising star among fiscal hawks and a target for the left.

“We understand the fiscal crisis of this nation and this nation’s government faces is so acute that somebody’s got to stand up and take on the big issues. Paul Ryan has done that,” the former Texas congressman said of the current House Budget Committee chairman. Mr. Armey has in recent years become a vocal leader of the influential tea-party-affiliated FreedomWorks.

Mr. Ryan insisted again Sunday he is not a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, but Mr. Daniels‘ announcement sparked speculation again that both establishment and tea party Republicans are unhappy with the current choices.

Mr. Daniels, who served in the George W. Bush administration as budget chief, is the latest would-be GOP presidential hopeful to step aside, telling his supporters late Saturday night that he will not run, at his family’s behest.

The Associated Press reported that some Daniels backers have reached out to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son and brother of former presidents, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about running. And at a national GOP meeting in Texas last week, officials were buzzing about the prospects of a presidential run by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. All three men have said repeatedly they will not run.

On Sunday evening, Mr. Pawlenty stole a march on his own announcement, set for Monday in Iowa, when he released a video on his Web site declaring that “I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for president of the United States.”

The former Minnesota governor said that, unlike President Obama, he “has the courage to face” America’s problems.

Mr. Gingrich, who is running, said Mr. Daniels would have been a formidable competitor and was disappointed to see him drop out.

“Well, I mean, Mitch has his own reasons for not running, but he is one of the great reform governors in this country,” Mr. Gingrich told CBS’ “Face the Nation” “He’s one of the hopes that you can get things fixed.”

Another GOP contender, former pizza-chain executive Herman Cain, made his official announcement Saturday in Atlanta. On “Fox News Sunday,” the tea party favorite said he won’t have a plan for the war on terrorism until he takes office and is given intelligence briefings.

Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Cain seemed unsure about both his own and the Israeli position on the “right of return,” a demand by Palestinian refugees from Israel’s 1948 war of independence and their descendants that they be allowed to resettle in the Jewish state, something the Israelis have adamantly opposed.

On the economic front, Mr. Cain said his first priority would be to pay back the nation’s Chinese creditors, and make substantial program cuts. But he said he would protect the benefits of nation’s military families and Social Security recipients.

“You don’t make cuts until you take care of those people,” he said.

Mr. Gingrich, who struggled last week to clarify his remarks on Mr. Paul’s Medicare reform, was at it again Sunday, saying he is not in favor of a mandate. On CBS, he said he supports the Ryan plan, with modifications.

“I think if Republicans approach it that way and have a conversation with the American people, we will, in fact, totally defeat the Democrats’ scare tactics,” he said, “and the American people will give us permission to have a very significant reform of Medicare.”