Predictably, past marital discord became a prime focus in mainstream media accounts of her speech. The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner wrote:
The couple have a somewhat unusual marital history. In 1993, they divorced, and Cheri moved to California. Her husband stayed in Indiana with their four young daughters. A year later, they reconciled.The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny had this to say:
Some attendees at the state party dinner said that it was not Daniels’s wife but his daughters, now adults, who were most wary of the campaign glare on that period in their life.
But Indiana’s first lady is in the spotlight for now. “There’s a lot of pressure on her,” said Ted Ogle, the party’s 6th District chairman, before the speech. “Her speaking last night is a major deal. What it means we might not know for some time.”
Party members had nothing but good things to say about Cheri Daniels, but they agreed that she had no love for politics.
“I always say that she’s the most elegant, graceful watermelon-spitter I’ve ever met,” said Eric Holcomb, the state party chairman. “She’s a multi-talented first lady. She’s not shy, but she’s not a political animal.”
Neither Daniels nor his wife seemed particularly reticent. “In 1975, I met a small-town girl, and it was one of those first sight things. I couldn’t take my eyes off her legs. She couldn’t take her eyes off the Steak and Shake burger I was eating. Whatever works.”
He explained how he convinced her that he should run for governor in 2003. “It does not overstate the case to say that this was not her first choice,” Daniels said. “There is no rule book for this, as far as I’m concerned. I would never want you to be any different than you are. I’ll never ask you to go anywhere you don’t want to go.”
Cheri Daniels has made no secret of her distaste for politics. She did not campaign for her husband, Mitch Daniels, during two races for governor. She did not fully move into the governor’s mansion after his election. She has never delivered a political speech.I could go on, but the point is the national news media, appropriately dubbed the Omedia, will remain fixated on this issue until all that can be exacted from it to effectively diminish public opinion of Daniels and his wife is a fait accompli. Anyone who doesn't appreciate this fact ignores the past history of those who have taken on Barack Obama in a political race.
But as leading Republicans step up their efforts to urge Mr. Daniels to run for president, the attention has suddenly turned to Mrs. Daniels, who makes her debut here on Thursday when she delivers a keynote address at the spring dinner of the Indiana Republican Party.
Her willingness to take on a public role has increased the speculation about his intentions. But it has also come at the price of increased scrutiny on the couple’s private life, something Mr. Daniels had seemed to have on his mind for months as he made it clear that family considerations would weigh heavily on his decision.
While much is known about Mr. Daniels in Republican circles, where he is viewed as a fiscally focused, budget-cutting, pragmatic-thinking conservative, there is one period of his life that has remained almost entirely private — until now.
He has been married twice — to the same wife.
Should he run, that chapter in his life would no doubt be picked over in public and become a part of the personal narrative that springs up around any serious candidate: in this case a three-year gap in their marriage in the 1990s, when she filed for divorce, moved to California with a new husband and left Mr. Daniels to raise their four daughters, then ages 8 to 14. She later returned and remarried him.
He has discussed it only once publicly, telling The Indianapolis Star in 2004: “If you like happy endings, you’ll love our story. Love and the love of children overcame any problems.”
Their story is in some ways an antidote to a string of philandering male politicians. But it is a topic that Mr. Daniels does not relish delving into, several friends said. And it has been one of the factors as he weighs whether to run for president, a rare position where scrutiny begins and privacy ends whether or not one gets the job.
The marriages of many political figures break up after they leave office — the latest example coming this week with the announcement of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s separation — but the Daniels case provides a different look at the intersection of public and private lives.
The deliberations about whether Mr. Daniels will join the Republican presidential race have elevated from whispers to headlines in recent weeks as fund-raisers, activists and party leaders have openly lamented the party’s slate of candidates already in the race.
When Barack Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois and thrusted into national prominence in 2004, he faced stiff primary opposition, including a multi-millionaire who was self-funding his campaign and leading in the polls. Blair Hull was practically measuring the drapes for the curtains in his Senate office when the Omedia in Illinois, egged on by Obama media adviser and former Chicago Tribune political reporter David Axelrod, descended on him with a vengeance by getting old divorce records unsealed, aired unsubstantiated allegations of domestic violence contained in the previously-sealed records and effectively destroyed his short-lived political career. Moving on to the general election in 2004, Obama faced Republican Jack Ryan, a young, attractive multi-millionaire formerly married to Hollywood actress Jerri Ryan--until the Omedia got his divorce records unsealed and learned he had a penchant for taking his former wife to swinger clubs--a revelation that forced his withdrawal from the race, effectively sealing Obama's 2004 Senate victory. As Obama's number one fan, the Chicago Tribune, described his luck back then:
Barack Obama, who penned a 403-page memoir at age 33 and has a special skill for giving intricate answers to questions, has never been a man short on words.Remember what happened to John Edwards in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary? He's still reeling from the bombshell stories of his marital infidelity and the love child one such affair produced. Remember all of those stories about John McCain leaving his ex-wife for a younger wife? Need I go on?
But this week, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate finds himself at a strange place in his political career: trying to say as little as possible.
Obama's greatest challenge in the coming days is keeping his public comments in check as he watches Republican opponent Jack Ryan manage a political firestorm after the release of divorce files. They show Ryan's ex-wife accused him of pressuring her to have sex with him in sex clubs while others watched.
"You're probably going to hear me say the same thing over and over," Obama cautioned reporters as he opened a question-and-answer session amid a Tuesday evening fundraiser on Navy Pier.
Indeed, if keeping his words concise and repetitive is Obama's biggest challenge between now and the November election, perhaps no candidacy has been more blessed than the Democrat's current run for the U.S. Senate.
In the Democratic primary, Obama found himself the overwhelming beneficiary when the campaign of former securities trader Blair Hull crashed in the aftermath of Hull's release of court files from a messy divorce. Though Obama has been a passive beneficiary of Ryan's latest problems, the Democrat's campaign worked aggressively behind the scenes to fuel controversy about Hull's filings.
Now, with 4 1/2 months left until the general election, Obama is facing a severely wounded Republican foe who not only has the embarrassing sexual allegations to cope with, but also has a severe credibility problem with leaders of his own party. Illinois GOP Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka and former Gov. Jim Edgar have publicly said they believe Ryan misled them about the contents of the divorce papers. And on Wednesday, U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert leveled similar charges.
On Wednesday, Obama insisted that he has delivered a convincing message to voters and has worked tirelessly on the campaign trail. But he also conceded that fortune is smiling on him lately: "We've gotten some good breaks in this campaign, no doubt about it."
Indeed, Obama has been the beneficiary of several Ryan stumbles, including the Republican's much criticized decision last month to dispatch an aide to trail Obama closely and continually with a video camera. Ryan also drew criticism for misstating a vote Obama took in the state Senate.
Obama's candidacy has also been buoyed by special attention he has gotten from national and international media outlets ranging from the New Yorker to the New Republic to the Economist of London. The unusual attention on his candidacy is generated by the possibility he could become the Senate's only African-American member, and the intense coverage should prove helpful in raising campaign cash outside of Illinois.
All of that has helped Obama gain a comfortable lead in the public opinion polls . . .
So what's in Mitch and Cheri's divorce records? If you don't know now, you can bet you will after Mitch Daniels secures the Republican nomination for president, if not sooner. If Daniels is serious about running for president, he may as well let the entire record be laid bare on his terms rather than the Omedia's terms. No stone may go unturned when it comes to Obama's political opponents--even as the Omedia turns a blind eye to allegations of Obama stepping out on his wife with other men and the misfortune that befalls those who raise issues of his marital infidelity, including Larry Sinclair's illegal arrest or the murder of Donald Young.