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Associated Press
Gov. Mitch Daniels says he’s keeping the door open to a possible 2012 presidential run – but only by a crack.

Daniels on White House: No, no, maybe

– A remark to a national newspaper that he’s leaving the door open to a presidential run in 2012 overstates the case, Gov. Mitch Daniels said Monday.

“I’m not doing it,” he said. “I’ll tell you honestly: My bathroom mirror has never had a president of the United States in it, ever.”

In an interview, the Washington Post reported Sunday that Daniels said that a number of people have urged him to explore the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

Daniels said he has other business to attend to in Indiana for the next 18 months, but at that point, “if these people are still around, and still not fully satisfied with the field, and if I don’t see anybody who’s raising what I think of as the survival issues for the country, I guess I’d listen, if it’s not too late, which it might well be. I’ve told people if it’s too late, so be it.”

In an interview with Indiana reporters Monday, Daniels said he is not gearing up for a presidential campaign.

“Watch what I’m doing or, more correctly, not doing,” he said.

People who want to be considered as presidential contenders typically make speeches around the country, particularly in early primary states such a New Hampshire; court groups that represent a party’s core voters; and begin raising money.

Daniels is doing none of that. For instance, he was invited to make the keynote speech at a convention of conservative political activists who met in Washington last week. He declined.

“You will not find me doing any of the things that candidates do. I have my hands full trying to do justice to this job. To the extent there’s any spare time for politics,” he said, it will be directed toward getting Republicans elected to the state legislature.

Plus, he said, he and the General Assembly “will be extremely busy this time next year on another surge of reform.”

Several Republicans who hope to emerge as the GOP presidential nominee in 2012 have begun to establish their campaigns. Waiting until the Indiana legislature adjourns in mid-2011 would put Daniels far behind them.

“After countless inquiries, I finally said, ‘Talk to me then,’ ” he said. “It’s probably too late for any of this.

“I’m still out trying to recruit other people. I talked to three folks that I won’t name, and they all turned me down,” Daniels said.

“I don’t expect to ever make that decision (about running),” he said, adding that he hopes to play a role in reshaping the Republican Party’s approach to the nation’s problems.

Daniels noted that a lame-duck politician – he is term-limited as governor – who announces he has no plans to seek another office dilutes his influence.

“There’s one school of thought that you get all the time,” he said, “People say, ‘OK, fine, you’re never going to do this. Don’t say that because people will pay more attention to you as long as they think you’re going to run.’ ”

Daniels said the Republican Party will eventually have “a credible nominee,” but “I continue to tell people that the first question isn’t ‘who.’ It’s ‘what.’ … What are we about? What are our answers to the obvious problems the nation has. What’s a more important exercise now. The ‘who’ will answer itself by and by.”

He said if the GOP “gets the ‘what’ right, I could imagine several ‘whos’ being effective leaders.”

sylviasmith@jg.net

nikikelly@jg.net

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