SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels believes tackling the national debt should be a focus of anyone running for the White House. He just won't say whether it's a problem he will be taking on.
When asked by one of the more than 400 people attending a chamber of commerce breakfast Thursday about his thoughts on the nation's problems and his plans for running for president, Daniels said that the growing debt is threatening the American dream. He said even people who believe in larger government should recognize that.
"I think it's the challenge of our age. It's a test of our democracy," he said.
He said people have speculated since the dawn of democracy that it wouldn't work because people would decide they could vote themselves someone else's money or because people would stop thinking about the future.
"We need to be the country that proves that's not true," he said. "I believe we will."
Daniels told reporters after the speech that he believes Wisconsin Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to restructure Medicare and cut social safety-net programs is a good start, but even more needs to be done.
"There are a couple things missing from it. He didn't talk about defense spending. He didn't talk about Social Security. I think a complete and honest program for national recovery has to deal with those. But the general direction of where he wants to head is the right one," Daniels said.
For months Daniels said he wouldn't announce a decision about running for president until the General Assembly adjourned. Since adjourning April 29, Daniels has repeatedly said that he would make an announcement soon. He reiterated that message Thursday.
"I can't announce a decision we haven't made yet," he said.
Daniels was repeatedly urged by voters to run during four stops he made at cities and towns in northern Indiana on Wednesday and Thursday. At two of the stops, Daniels gave what he calls a "Report to Taxpayers," summing up what he sees as accomplishments of the legislative session and his two terms as governor.
He focused on his fiscal accomplishments, saying Indiana has fared better than other states during the recession. He said because Indiana was able to build up its reserves under his leadership the state was able to tip into it last year and some this year when it needed to.
"Because we had it and protected it and didn't let people spend it, we got through this recession without any tax increase when almost nobody else in America did," he said.
Both days he said he's frequently asked by people outside Indiana how he was able to accomplish that.
"I slip into sarcasm and say, 'Very mysterious. You're going to be dazzled here. You got a pen? 'We spent less money than we took in,'" Daniels said, speaking slowly.
Daniels said if he does decide to run for president, he won't dwell on his accomplishments in Indiana.
"I don't think we elect presidents on resumes or anything that happened before," he said.
Throughout the two day he talked about the need to address the national debt, including when he was asked his thoughts about some in the GOP seeing him as a possible savior in what some are calling a weak Republican field of candidates.
"People who are really concerned like I am that we have one overriding issue that threatens the future of this country, threatens the young people of this country, and that we ought to get on and deal with it," he said. "I haven't yet seen other people speak to that."
AP reporter Tom Coyne can be reached at http://twitter.com/TomCoyneAP
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