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“His message about the most immediate threat facing our nation — the massive debt — will not go unheard,” Mr. Huntsman said in a statement, which did not directly address his own plans.

“I look forward to working with him to promote long-term solutions to our nation’s problems as well as continuing a valued friendship.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who’s in the race, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he thought Mr. Daniels “would be in the front-runners from day one if he’d decided to run.”

Mr. Ryan said Mr. Daniels “would have been a great addition to this race.” One the House’s “young guns,” Mr. Ryan waved off any suggestion that he was interested in joining the 2012 contest.

“You never know what opportunities present themselves way down the road,” Mr. Ryan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”I’m not talking about right now.”

Polls show that Republican primary voters want more options than they have now.

But with Mr. Daniels‘ departure, the race these days seems more about who isn’t running for the GOP nomination than who is. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is out; so is Donald Trump. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pulled the plug, following Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana.

Mr. Daniels seemed more optimistic about a run in the past week than he had in months, though he never sounded particularly enthusiastic. His advisers had reached out to Republicans in Iowa and other early nominating states for private conversations.

But as he talked about a candidacy, he always pointed back to his family as the primary issue that would hold him back.

His wife, Cheri, filed for divorce in 1993 and moved to California to remarry, leaving him to raise their four daughters in Indiana. She later divorced again, and she and Mr. Daniels reconciled and remarried in 1997.

Mrs. Daniels never has taken much of a public role in her husband’s political career, so it raised eyebrows when she was chosen as the keynote speaker at a major Indiana fundraiser in May.

Both husband and wife were said to be pleased with the reception they got, and advisers suggested that the outcome could encourage Mr. Daniels to run for president. Even so, Republicans in Washington and Indiana with ties to Mr. Daniels put the odds at 50-50.

Mr. Daniels used his time considering a run to shine a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt, even though George W. Bush enlarged the scope of government and federal spending.

Mr. Bush, famously fond of nicknaming those he liked, called Mr. Daniels “the Blade” for his pursuit of budget cuts. Mr. Daniels has said “the pinata” might have been more appropriate, given the way members of Congress beat him up for trying to cut spending and earmarks.

A one-time senior executive at Eli Lilly & Co., Mr. Daniels caused a stir among cultural conservatives by saying the next president facing economic crisis “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues.”

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