Mitch Daniels' Inner Circle: Oklahoman Don Cogman
Upon closer inspection, however, Daniels was doing the classic tap dance of any potential presidential candidate. "This is nothing I have started, encouraged," Daniels told the paper. "It's nothing I'm going to do anything about. If it's still an interesting subject in a few months, ask me then." (Oh, we will!)
Daniels' comments -- and the buzz from those who buzz about these things in Washington -- make clear that the Indiana governor is, in fact, at least mulling the possibility of a candidacy.
Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar (R) is playing a cheerleading role for a Daniels 2012 bid these days; "I have encouraged him to run." Lugar said in a recent C-SPAN interview. "I think that he would be an outstanding candidate and a great president."
Daniels' resume would almost certainly be the envy of the rest of the Republican field. After serving in a series of political staff jobs -- chief of staff to Lugar, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- Daniels came to national prominence at the director of the Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush.
Daniels left that job in 2002 and returned to his native Indiana in 2003 to run for governor. He won the 2004 race over acting Gov. Joe Kernan (D) 53 percent to 45 percent -- seizing the change mantle from a moribund Democratic party -- and won re-election in 2008 (not exactly a great year to be a Republican) by 18 points.
Daniels' successes in the electorally critical Midwest intrigue national Republicans who see the region as essential to their chances of beating President Barack Obama in 2012.
So, who is Daniels relying on to make up his mind about a bid? While he is famously independent when it comes to his campaigns, Daniels does depend on a group of informal advisers for guidance.
(Looking for other inner circles for other potential 2012 candidates? Our pieces on the former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour beckon.)
The Daniels Inner Circle
* Eric Holcomb: Holcomb, who managed Daniels' 2008 campaign, now serves as deputy chief of staff for the governor.
* Earl Goode: Goode currently serves as Daniels' chief of staff in the governor's office but has strong private-sector experience too as the former president of GTE Information Services.
* Kim Alfano: Alfano, a low profile but well regarded media consultant, made the commercials for Daniels' 2004 and 2008 races.
* Murray Clark: Clark, the Indiana Republican party chairman, has a long history in Hoosier State politics. Clark spent more than a decade as a state senator and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2000. He began to run for governor in 2003, before bowing out and serving as Daniels' campaign chair.
* Chris Mathews: Matthews, president of the Bellwether Group, handled Daniels' polling in 2004 and 2008. Like Alfano, she keeps a low profile in Washington political circles despite sharing her name with the host of MNSBC's "Hardball".
* James Bopp: Bopp is a Republican National Committeeman from Indiana and a leading pro-life voice nationally. Bopp was also the lead author of the so-called "purity resolution" that would have banned the RNC from giving money to any candidate who disagreed with two or more elements of the party platform.
* Charlie Black: Black is a longtime political strategist in Washington and was a member of Arizona Sen. John McCain's (Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign.
* Bob Perkins: Perkins is a former president of the Chiat/Day, the massive New York City-based advertising agency. He is also a longtime Republican fundraiser who collected cash for Daniels' NRSC in the early 1980s.
* Deborah Daniels: The governor's sister has stellar credentials of her own as a former U.S. Attorney and former Assistant Attorney General. She now works for the Indianapolis law firm of Krieg Devault.
* Al Hubbard: Hubbard was a big fundraiser for President George W. Bush and served as the head of the National Economic Council in the second term. He is also a Hoosier native.
* Tom Bell : Bell is the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Board of directors and the CEO of SecurAmerica, an Atlanta-based security firm. He once served as chief of staff to then Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock.
*Debbie/Rick Hohlt: Debbie runs Daniels' office in Washington and has spent years working in GOP politics including a stint at the Republican National Committee. Rick, her husband, is lobbyist and major political fundraiser (and a native Hoosier).