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With White House speculation building, Mitch Daniels comes to Washington

May 04, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau
(AP Photo/AJ Mast )

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is set to deliver a high-profile speech in Washington on Wednesday as his self-imposed deadline to decide on a presidential race looms and polls continue to show ambivalence about the GOP field.

Daniels will discuss education reforms in his lunchtime speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, including expansion of charter schools and student vouchers and changes to teacher tenure and evaluation.

The Washington trip is part of a three-day venture beyond the Hoosier State after the end of Indiana's legislative session, which was capped by Daniels' decision to sign a controversial bill that would cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics.

Daniels has repeatedly said he would wait until the end of the Indiana session to announce his plans.

While in Washington, Daniels will also be feted by the Arab American Institute at its Spirit of Humanity awards gala. On Monday, Daniels won an award for distinguished leadership from the Columbia Business School, and Tuesday he received the Ronald Reagan Award from a conservative group in Maryland.

Daniels had thought to be cool to a presidential run but has been urged by conservatives to consider it. Daniels, a former budget director under President George W. Bush, told Fox News Channel on Tuesday that the former president is among those he's talked with about running.

A new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows that there continues to be no clear front-runner in the Republican field. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scored 18% among Republicans in the national survey to lead the pack, followed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, tied with 15% apiece. Donald Trump scored at 12%, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul tie with Daniels for fifth place at 5%.

On Tuesday, two more Republicans took steps toward entering the race. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania formed an exploratory committee and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman created a political action committee. The first Republican primary debate of the 2012 cycle, set for South Carolina on Thursday, has only drawn a handful of participants.

One of those who did commit, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, seems eager to egg on his would-be opponents.

"I can understand if people didn't want to start in December or January. I mean, in the past they've said, 'That's too early.' Well, you know, it's time," he told an Iowa radio station Tuesday.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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