Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is seeking a national stage. And those who believe that the flow of mercury into American children's developing bodies should be stemmed and not supercharged should be on guard. "Indiana's very slight, very balding, very unimposing governor" -- Newsweek's words, not mine -- is no typical Hoosier mental mite like Dan Quayle, Evan Bayh or Mike Pence.
From 1987 to 1990, Daniels led the right-wing think tank Hudson Institute, which did then and still does receive generous funding from the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., inventor of and primary profiteer from the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, a component of childhood vaccines suspected of contributing to the worldwide epidemic of autism. He left Hudson for an executive position at Lilly, where he rose to the position of senior vice president for corporate strategy before leaving in 2001 to head George W. Bush's Office of Management and Budget.
Newsweek, which also describes Daniels as "5 feet 7 (in boots)" with a "comb-over (that) is borderline delusional" -- is not alone in seeing through Daniels increasingly tiresome, "Aw pshaw," response to suggestions that his eyes are set on the White House.
"I can't help but think that a common-sense conservative like Daniels would be the perfect match for Obama." - Reihan Salam, conservative writer
In a Sept. 10 profile on Daniels called "Responsible Rider," the weekly newsmagazine cites enthusiastic reactions to Daniels from conservatives like writer and journalist Reihan Salam. "Though it is far too early to know what the world will look like in 2012," Salam has opined. "I can't help but think that a common-sense conservative like Daniels would be the perfect match for Obama."
In February, Newsweek adds, "New York Times columnist Ross Douthat dubbed Daniels 'America's best governor.'" A search for "Mitch Daniels" on the National Review Online returns 12 hits in less than nine months this year and too many to tally if the search is expanded to all dates.
On Sept. 10, Indianapolis Star political columnist Matthew Tully wrote a column called "All signs point to a Daniels bid for president." It's time to dispense with the will-he or won't-he speculation surrounding Daniels, whose concerns each day seem to stretch farther and farther beyond the Hoosier State boundaries, he wrote.
"Let's stop allowing coy nondenial denials to distract us from seeing the obvious," Tulley said. "Daniels is running for president."
Alongside magazines and newspapers, cable news stations and the Internet have likewise been abuzz just the past week with stories about Daniels's rising-star status.
"A detail in the Newsweek profile led Politico blogger Andy Barr to publish an item titled 'Mitch Daniels fished quarters out of a toilet.'"
Politico blogger Ben Smith linked to an Aug. 27 C-SPAN interview with Republican Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, who said he had encouraged Daniels to run. Daniels ran Lugar's successful first bid for Senate in 1976.
"I think that he would be an outstanding candidate and a great president," Lugar said.
MSNBC featured a photo of Daniels standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour at a Sept. 2 Republican Party fundraiser in Jackson, Miss. Daniels was the featured speaker and addressed the party's future.
Ezra Klein, a Washington Post blogger and frequent commentator on Countdown with Keith Olberman, penned a Sept. 8 piece in which he declared his admiration for an op ed Daniels wrote in the Wall Street Journal that same day called "Time for Emergency Economic Reform."
"It's a real plan, with concrete policy ideas that might actually make a difference," Klein wrote.
No fewer than three other bloggers and opinion writers at the Post chimed in on Daniels's ideas that same day. Since then bloggers at Mother Jones, U.S. News & World Report and The New Republic, to name just a few, have taken on the subject.
"According to FollowtheMoney.org, Daniels was the top recipient of Lilly campaign contributions in his 2004 and 2008 gubernatorial bids."
A detail in the Newsweek profile led Politico blogger Andy Barr to publish an item titled "Mitch Daniels fished quarters out of a toilet."
That Daniels is indebted to Lilly is well-documented, as is whose interests would be served if in fact he makes it as far as the White House. Thus far, everywhere he has gone, Lilly, its money and influence have preceded him, from the Hudson Institute to the Bush White House to the governor's office in the Indiana Statehouse.
When the Bush administration slipped an indemnification for Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies from liability for mercury-caused damage in vaccines in the 2002 Homeland Security Bill, Daniels was Bush budget director, and Lilly CEO Sidney Taurel served on the Homeland Security Council. George W.'s father had served on the Lilly board before becoming president.
According to FollowtheMoney.org, Daniels was the top recipient of Lilly campaign contributions in his 2004 and 2008 gubernatorial bids, when he received $19,250 and $47,500 respectively.
Practically every news outlet in Indiana carried an Aug. 29 Associated Press report with the lead: "Gov. Mitch Daniels has added a portrait of Eli Lilly to a wall of paintings in his office."
Steven Higgs can be reached at .