Daniels quitting politics may leave Republicans in lurch

2012-06-24T19:30:00Z 2012-06-26T17:22:08Z Daniels quitting politics may leave Republicans in lurchBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | The most immediate effect of Gov. Mitch Daniels' election as Purdue University president won't be felt on campus, but in the smaller crowds, fewer donations and perhaps lost races for Indiana Republican candidates.

Daniels announced Thursday he will abstain from "any partisan political activities or commentary" during the six months remaining in his second term as governor following a final trip Monday to Wisconsin for a fundraiser supporting the U.S. Senate campaign of Bush administration pal and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

That means with a U.S. Senate seat, the governor's office and Indiana's 11 electoral votes on the line, the man who for eight years broke every state fundraising record and campaigned relentlessly to help Republicans win control of every statewide office will be sidelined.

Privately, Republican candidates are grumbling about not getting to campaign side by side with a Republican governor who enjoys a 63 percent approval rating. Though the party's top official said Friday it's no big deal.

"One of the measures of a great leader is who comes after you to carry the torch," GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb said. "Thanks to the efforts of Gov. Daniels, we have a deep bench of Republicans on the field and ready to carry our party's message through November and beyond."

But it's easy to see the ways Daniels will be missed.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock could have used Daniels' fundraising prowess and national profile to replenish his campaign account following an expensive primary race against U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar.

Now Mourdock, who is tied in public opinion polls with Democrat Joe Donnelly, is stuck doing that time-consuming work on his own.

Mike Pence, the Republican candidate for governor, would have had an easier time making the case that he'll continue Daniels' policies if Daniels were traveling the state saying the same thing. 

Pence must now campaign with nary a word from the man he hopes to succeed.

And while Indiana appears sewn up for Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential race, Democrat Barack Obama narrowly carried the state four years ago when Daniels was actively supporting the Republican nominee.

Could Obama win Indiana again with Daniels staying silent?

Indiana Democrats aren't publicly cheering Daniels' decision to drop out of politics. However, one party insider told The Times, "Now Mourdock and Pence can't sit on Daniels' shoulders and say that they're tall."

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