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Mr. Daniels was uniquely poised to execute that vision after years of jobs in politics and corporate boardrooms, Mr. Pickett said. Mr. Daniels‘ work in the Reagan White House and as President George W. Bush’s budget director co-mingled with his time as an Eli Lilly executive to show him how to get big things done in a state unaccustomed to big changes, Mr. Pickett said.

Former House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer isn’t as flattering.

Mitch would do anything to accomplish his goal. He was persistent and he kept at it and he didn’t let the facts get in his way and he didn’t let anything get in his way,” Mr. Bauer said. “And ultimately, because of the fact we’re basically in a Republican state, he got his way.”

Perhaps more than anyone, it was Mr. Bauer who drew out Mr. Daniels‘ sharp tongue. In 2005, Mr. Daniels said Mr. Bauer and the House Democrats “car-bombed” his first-year agenda. Since then, he has mellowed significantly in public but still has his moments. At the opening of the Interstate 69 extension, Mr. Daniels called opponents of the projects “bellyachers.” He later apologized for the flip remark.

He incurred the wrath of the state’s public school teachers with his sweeping education agenda, which, in addition to the voucher program, tied teacher pay to student performance and led to the first state takeover of failing schools. Those moves cost his education chief, Tony Bennett, his job in the November election.

The state abandoned its welfare privatization project after complaints of delays and lost services, replacing it with a hybrid system of public and private services. And changes in the embattled Department of Child Services have sparked hours of public testimony and prompted lawmakers to propose revisions in how the state handles reports of abuse and neglect.

But despite the stumbles, supporters say Mr. Daniels‘ legacy will be that of a governor of immense talent who knew how to inspire.

“When you stack up all the chips at the end of the game, each stack is important all by itself. But the most important thing is what all the chips represent altogether. And you look at those chips and you go: ‘Wow. We’re really something,’” longtime friend and confidant Mark Lubbers said. “We, not him. And how he has done rubs off on all the rest of us. That’s the biggest achievement of all.”