Mitch Daniels not sold yet on Rick Perry

Gov Mitch Daniels, R-Ind.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Mitch Daniels
Gov Mitch Daniels, R-Ind.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

This article originally appeared on RealClearPolitics.

Though he did not watch last night's GOP presidential debatein which Rick Perry was widely criticized for appearing to lose focus and botching an attempt to challenge Mitt Romney's conservative bona fides, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Friday sounded lukewarm at best about Perry's candidacy.

Asked during a breakfast briefing with reporters about concerns regarding Perry's electability, Daniels remained somewhat deferential to the Texas governor but also echoed the growing rumblings among the party establishment that Perry may not be the GOP's best bet to go toe-to-toe with President Obama next November.

"I don't think we know enough to say yet," Daniels said of Perry's electability. "I'll tell you honestly that if you'd asked me that question a year ago, I would've said, 'I like Rick Perry, and I think he's been a good governor, but I don't think that would fly actually.' But the situation has become so grave, and the failure of the current policies so obvious, that I think all kinds of people could be elected."

Daniels -- a fiscal hawk who cited family concerns in deciding not to mount his own presidential bid -- then ratcheted up his backhanded compliment of Perry.

"It could be that any Republican who can breathe and speak English becomes the default option," Daniels said. "And a pure partisan would say, 'Great.' But I've got a different point of view that winning the next election without having really prepared the country and rallied the country to do some big things would be a huge lost opportunity. So could he win? Yeah, I could see it."

In Washington to promote his new book, "Keeping the Republic," Daniels said that while there were "plenty of people in the race" who had the character and ability to be president, he is not close to making an endorsement.

Daniels suggested that he wanted the candidates to offer more candid assessments of how to address the nation's fiscal woes, which he called an "arithmetic" problem rather than an ideological one.

But Daniels' lack of enthusiasm for Perry's candidacy appeared evident when he answered a follow-up question about whether the Texan was prepared for office by noting that Perry -- the national GOP front-runner, according to recent polls -- should not be "dismissed."

"He's been governor of a big state -- he's been one for quite a long time -- he's handled a lot of problems, a lot of crises, he's familiar with a very broad range of issues, so I think he can't be dismissed at all, readiness-wise," Daniels said.

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Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News..

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.