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Politics: Why Mitch Daniels may join the Republican presidential race, even if he doesn't actually want the job

February 17, 2011 |  3:01 pm

Mitch Daniels

If you're a Mitch Daniels fan, or curious when the race for the Republican presidential nomination will get underway in earnest, here are some things the Indiana governor told me that didn’t make it into Thursday's column, "Debt and a tough-talking governor":

He says he's getting lots of encouragement to run from potential supporters and contributors -- especially since his cold-shower speech to last week's Conservative Political Action Conference.

"There are a lot of people, for reasons best known to themselves, who have approached me and told me I ought to run. There have been a lot more since that speech," he said.

He still says he hasn't decided whether to run, but he sounds considerably more interested now than he did a year ago, when he told reporters there were "a hundred reasons not to."

And he promises he’ll make a decision by May.

"You can't wait forever," he said. "If you make no decision by then, no decision means no."

That goes for the rest of the GOP pack too. The only possible exception, political strategists say, is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose star power and fundraising ability might allow her to procrastinate a few months longer.

So by mid-May, three short months from now, we should know whether the Republican field will also include Daniels, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota -- to name only the most frequently mentioned possibilities. Judging by their actions, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are already running.

It's also worth remembering -- as one GOP strategist reminded me this week -- that politicians sometimes run for president even if they don't expect to win. "It's a good way to get people to listen to your argument," he said. "And in Mitch's case, it might increase his chances of being picked for vice president."

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And the GOP front-runner is ...

--Doyle McManus

Photo: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference dinner in Washington last week. Credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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