Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, on a closely watched Washington visit, said Wednesday it's not too late to toss his hat into the ring if he decides on a White House run in 2012.
The popular conservative governor, a one-time top budget aide to former President George W. Bush who is midway through his second term, said recently he will decide on whether he will run within weeks.
At a packed gathering at the American Enterprise Institute devoted ostensibly to his education agenda, Mr. Daniels addressed talk that he may have waited too long to jump into the campaign.
"People far more sage than I about our political and presidential process are very surprised, that on May 4th it's not already far too late, but for whatever reason, it's not. I consider that, from the standpoint of the public, a blessing," he said.
“Unless you're a political professional or running a bed-and-breakfast in New Hampshire, it's a darn good thing that we'll have a nomination campaign measured in months and not years," Mr. Daniels said, drawing a round of laughter.
The Indiana governor has generally played down talk of a presidential bid, but a new poll shows he is pulling as much support in the Republican Party as other second-tier candidates who have been hitting the stump regularly in early caucus and primary states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire [-] including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows Mr. Daniels and those four potential candidates bunched together in a tie for fifth, each pulling about 5 percent among Republican voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney topped the poll with 18 percent support, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and billionaire developer Donald Trump.
Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said Mr. Daniels or another of the “unknowns" still had time to break out of the pack.
“Many of the relative unknowns could have large upsides if they can get out their messages, since they will not have to erase a bad first impression," he said.
Mr. Daniels had said he would not make a decision while the Indiana General Assembly was in session. State lawmakers wrapped up their work in Indianapolis on Friday, sending a landmark education-overhaul package to the governor, who signed the legislation Saturday.
The 62-year-old governor is being credited for the reforms, which include expanded support for charter schools, more freedom for parents and students to leave failing public schools and changes to teacher-tenure rules that will emphasize performance over seniority.
Under the new rules in Indiana, teachers will be evaluated annually and rated according to the performance of their students, Mr. Daniels said Wednesday. Teachers with poor ratings won't receive annual raises. Collective-bargaining rights have also been limited.
The governor, who drew criticism from some on the right last year when he called for a “truce" on social issues, also signed a bill passed during the just-finished session that will strip Planned Parenthood in Indiana of federal funding [-] one of the toughest such anti-abortion funding restrictions in the country.
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