After much speculation, former Gov. Mitch Daniels (above) announced Tuesday he will not run for a soon-to-be-open seat in Congress after sitting U.S. Sen. Mike Braun launched his own 2024 bid for governor.
“With full credit and respect for the institution and those serving in it, I conclude that it’s just not the job for me, not the town for me, and not the life I want to live at this point,” Daniels said in a lengthy statement.
Daniels visited Washington D.C. earlier this month, publicly weighing a run in what could be a highly competitive Republican primary against Rep. Jim Banks of the Third Congressional District, who announced his candidacy on January 17.
No other candidates have filed to run for Indiana’s open Senate seat – though Indiana’s open gubernatorial position has already attracted three Republicans, including Braun, and promises to be an expensive race.
Even before Banks’ formal announcement, a conservative super PAC with ties to Banks released an ad attacking Daniels, calling him “out of date.”
Immediately after Daniels’ announcement not to run, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the fundraising arm of the party, threw its considerable support behind Banks.
“I have the utmost respect for the years of service Governor Daniels has given to Indiana and wish him well in the future,” NRSC Chair Steve Daines said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with one of our top recruits this cycle, Jim Banks, to keep Indiana red in 2024.”
Banks released a statement saying “I respect Governor Daniels and I learned a lot from him when I served in the Statehouse. I’m excited about the early momentum and support for our campaign but we’ve got a long way to go. Over the next two years, I’m going to work hard every day to make my case to Hoosier voters that I’m best prepared to be their conservative Senator in Washington.”
After serving two terms as governor from 2005 to 2013, Daniels spent the last near-decade as the president of Purdue University, stepping down in December and fueling rumors that he would re-enter politics.
Daniels, in his 500-word statement, said he would have only spent one term in the U.S. Senate “given (his) age,” and dedicated himself to long-term issues involving the country’s safety net programs.
“… So that we can keep promises we have made to older and vulnerable Americans and avoid a terrible national crisis of confidence and betrayal,” Daniels said. “… To avoid crushing our economy and today’s younger citizens with the unpayable debts we are on course to leave them.”
Though he didn’t name Club For Growth, which sponsored the attack ad against him, Daniels said he would have worked to soften the “harshness and personal vitriol that have infected our public square, rendering it not only repulsive to millions of Americans but also less capable of effective action to meet our threats and seize our opportunities.”
Daniels didn’t rule out future contributions to the public sphere outside of elected office but didn’t outline his plans for the immediate future.
What does this signal for the party’s future?
National politicos have openly wondered how Daniels’ style of governance, with a focus on fiscal conservatism over social issues, would fare against Banks, who frequently uses Twitter in a divisive manner and closely aligns himself with former President Donald Trump.
Banks has attracted a slew of endorsements from congressional colleagues, including Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. J.D. Vance and former Trump administrative official Stephen Miller.
To Indiana Democrats, the support for Banks demonstrated how right-wing his campaign would be, conforming with the politics of Trump.
“Daniel’s ‘no social issues’ mantra would have had a tough time winning a GOP primary in Indiana and the knives were already drawn from groups saying that Daniels was a relic of the past,” Democratic Party Chair Mike Schmuhl said in a statement, referencing the Club for Growth ad.
Schmuhl placed the blame for Indiana’s quality of life issues on Daniels, saying Hoosiers deserved honest leadership without extremist politics.
“Mitch Daniels can finally ride his motorcycle into the sunset and leave us alone,” Schmuhl concluded.
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