INDIANAPOLIS — With 1,100 people chanting “Run Mitch, Run,” Gov. Mitch Daniels took the stage here Thursday night and did something he’s never done before: He introduced his wife Cheri, and then he turned the microphone over to her to address the sold-out crowd.
It was Cheri Daniels’ first-ever speech at a big political event in all the years she has been Indiana’s First Lady. And with speculation over whether her husband will enter the presidential race now at a fever-pitch, her mere presence at the podium for the annual state GOP dinner had everyone searching for clues and hidden meanings. The question was heard over and over: Did her willingness to step into the limelight after years as a reluctant First Lady mean she was on board with Daniels making a bid for the White House?
Daniels, who asked his wife to give the speech, didn’t rule it out.
“This whole business of running for national office — I’m not saying I won’t do it,” he said, triggering loud applause.
Daniels, who was President Bush’s budget director and has earned a reputation in Indiana for fiscal discipline, said afterward that a decision will come within weeks — and that it remains the subject of ongoing talks between his wife and their four daughters.
“It’s closer to a decision. We owe the people and answer. If we’re going to do it, we have to get on the road to do it,” Daniels told reporters who crowded around him after the event.
Reflecting what many observers see as weak Republican field, the pressure on Daniels to run has been intense. He has been assured backing from big-money donors who supported George W. Bush, in addition to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as top sitting Republican governors.
Sources tell CBS News popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has told Daniels he would back him, as would Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
And as a sign of how important his wife is to the decision, sources tell CBS News that even former First Lady Laura Bush has called Cheri Daniels personally to encourage her to support the effort and offer advice on how to define what her role on the campaign — and potentially in the White House — would be.