Former Gov. Mitch Daniels will vote on the Indiana Senate election in the coming weeks


Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will likely decide within the next two weeks whether he will run for the Senate, said a person close to Daniels – a campaign that is using the state’s 2024 GOP primary as a test for the lasting influence of Trumpism in a deep red state.

Rep. Jim Banks, a conservative with Donald Trump support from northeastern Indiana, has already entered the race. And the Club for Growth launched a pre-emptive ad attacking 73-year-old Daniels, calling him an “old guard Republican” who is “all out of power.”

Daniels, from his home in Naples, Fla., spoke to Banks on the phone less than two weeks ago. It didn’t stop Banks from running for the Senate seat, which was vacated by Senator Mike Braun, a Republican running for governor instead — which Banks has since touted in phone calls, two people familiar with their conversation said.

The person close to Daniels said the primary would pit Daniels-style conservatives focused on winning elections and achieving political goals against Trump-style “styluses” who “make fortunes in the business.” to howl at the moon” and the Republicans are pushing back on the process.

“What they have created is a situation where Mitch Daniels will be orders of magnitude more powerful and influential when he gets into the United States Senate than if they just left him alone,” the person said. “We had no intention of campaigning against Donald Trump or the MAGA world but they have launched that attack now and none of us are shrinking violets and this isn’t our first rodeo. If they want a fistfight, let’s go.”

The person said the former governor and president of Purdue University is likely to make a decision soon, in part because he doesn’t want to keep Indiana Republicans loyal to him waiting with attacks already underway.

Daniels has been considering running for the Senate for several months, the person said. He spoke by phone last fall with former Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who left the Senate for a role in science to become President of the University of Florida — the reversal of the move that Daniels, who recently left Purdue, considering.

Daniels will visit Washington in the coming days for meetings with several Republican senators, the person said.

Daniels, a former director of President George W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget and top executive of Eli Lilly and Co. who was elected governor in 2004 and 2008, was the dominant figure in Indiana politics at the time — he presided over a rapid period of Republican government and education reforms, budget cuts, and the curbing of union power.

He was widely viewed as a potential Republican presidential nominee for 2012, but decided against running, citing family concerns.

When Daniels left office, he was instead named president of Purdue University – a position he held for 10 years before leaving late last year. During this time he largely avoided commenting on political issues.

Still, Daniels cast a long shadow over Indiana politics. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was elected governor of Indiana after Daniels and took the office much more cautiously, struggled to garner the kind of influence Daniels had until Pence was won as Trump’s running mate in 2016. Indiana’s current governor, Republican Eric Holcomb, was Daniels’ political right-hand man during his tenure as governor.

The Club for Growth’s attacks are in some ways unsurprising: The organization’s president, former Congressman David McIntosh, was among the Republicans who were knocked out of the Indiana governor’s race in 2004 when Daniels launched his campaign with support for the then President Bush started.