"When people say, 'What can we do about it?' And they come to town like this and say, 'We're for the poor, we're for the disadvantaged," Pawlenty said. "And one of the first things they do is eliminate the scholarship under this administration and the former Democratic-controlled Congress -- for scholarships for poor children in Washington D.C. to go to school of their choice -- shame on them."
By contrast, Daniels had primarily positive things to say about the Obama administration's approach to education Wednesday.
"Most of what I have talked about so far and much of what I will is strongly supported by the Obama administration," Daniels noted. "I salute the president, Secretary Duncan. They are right about these things. They have had the courage to, in many cases, irritate some of their allies." He did note later in the speech that "we don't agree on everything."
It took three questions from the audience before someone finally asked about the GOP presidential race, which has gotten off to a notably slow start. Daniels responded that it is a "happy surprise" that it is not too late for another notable candidate to enter the race.
When Daniels finished taking questions from the podium, he was swarmed by a sea of political reporters asking follow ups about his presidential intentions, but there was no new information to report about his timeline or the way he is leaning. He said that family concerns will outweigh all other factors in his decision-making process.
Daniels is understated when compared to some other potential GOP hopefuls; he speaks softly, relies on humor as a disarming tactic, and is comfortable discussing policy in granular detail. That's why a lot of Republicans like him.
But what could be an asset in a forum like a think tank is a liability when trying to win over Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina. His presentation was technical, not organized in broad themes. Daniels remains largely unknown to many Republicans and his education reforms are likely to be a big hit with Republicans -- especially conservatives -- if he runs for president. But he'll need to sell them in a compelling manner designed for the masses.
For now, at least, Daniels appears at ease with his place in the prospective GOP presidential field, not taking the moves he makes super-seriously. When he was read back comments he made on FOX News yesterday about Osama bin Laden's killing and the broader war on terror, Daniels responded by saying, "Well, I don't think that's all that deep a thought."
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