For Some, Daniels Presidential Bid Hinged On Signing Anti-Abortion Legislation

On almost any political news-related website you visit on the Internet today you will find a story speculating that Gov. Mitch Daniels intends to run for president because he indicated he would sign an anti-abortion bill that bars pregnant women from getting abortions more than 20 weeks into their pregnancy, and bars government funding for clinics that provide abortion services. Although Daniels said he supported the legislation from the beginning and has generally taken pro-life positions throughout his two terms as governor, the speculation abounded:

  • "Questions about Daniels’ position on the bill had risen to national prominence as politicos speculated whether signing the legislation into law would help or hurt a possible campaign for president, which he is considering. Some thought it could help him among conservatives, who were frustrated that he called for a political “truce” between Republicans and Democrats on social issues while elected officials were dealing with the nation’s economic woes." Lesley Stedman Weidenbener, Courier-Journal
  • "His decision to sign House Bill 1210 added fuel to speculation that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, particularly since it may silence criticism by social conservatives who had objected to Daniels' call for a "truce" on social issues." Mary Beth Schneider, Star
  • "Mitch Daniels, who's set to decide soon whether he's entering the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, said Friday he'll sign a bill that will end Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood for family services — an issue that has attracted national attention . . . A Democratic insider referred to Daniels's past call for a "truce" on social issues and snarked, "Truce broken it appears." Maggie Haberman, Politico
  • "Indiana’s bill comes as Mr. Daniels, a Republican in a state where Republicans last fall gained control of both chambers of the legislature, is expected to announce a decision soon about running for president in 2012 . . . The bill cutting off an expected $2 million in Medicaid financing to Planned Parenthood could have become law without the governor’s signature, and Mr. Daniels’s announcement was viewed by some as a sign that he may be leaning toward running and hoping to increase his appeal among social conservatives. Monica Davey, New York Times
  • "Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday he will sign restrictive abortion legislation, making Indiana the first state to cut off all government funding for Planned Parenthood and boosting Daniels’ credentials among social conservatives as he considers whether to run for president." Associated Press
Before you begin to think the passage of the legislation represents the death knell of Planned Parenthood in Indiana you should realize the organization can easily separate its abortion services from its other family planning services by setting up affiliate organizations, thus avoiding the loss of federal and state funding for its other services. At most, the legislation will slightly reduce the amount of public funds spent on abortion, and it could increase the cost of obtaining an abortion in the absence of any government funding. If the organization is successful in making up the difference through private donations, there will likely be no impact at all on the availability of abortions in Indiana.

Those who've followed Daniels this year would look at his aggressive education reform agenda as the best hint of his plans to run for president. That included:
  • Indiana's first school voucher program to allow students in failing public schools to attend other schools of their choice;
  • Expanding the number of charter schools;
  • Collective bargaining reform that limits contract negotiations to wages and benefits;
  • Providing funding for full-day kindergarten;
  • Revamping teacher pay so it is based more on merit and less on seniority; and
  • Measuring teacher and administrator performance based on student achievement.
You can bet if Gov. Daniels does decide to run for president, which I think he will, his education reform agenda will be near the top of the list of achievements he espouses in any presidential campaign.

UPDATE: The New York Times is featuring a Sunday story discussing Daniels' potential run. It includes this quote from him:

“I’m getting letters from all over the damn country, and some of them are pretty moving,” Mr. Daniels said in an interview last week at the Capitol in Indianapolis, where his friends believe he is inching closer to exploring a candidacy. He added, “It can’t help but affect you.”

His old friend Al Hubbard has this on what separates him from the other candidates:

“What sets Mitch apart from the other candidates who are currently running, he is very, very direct and very open about what needs to be done,” said Al Hubbard, a director of the National Economic Council. “I’m disappointed that the other candidates who are currently talking about running are reluctant to do that.”