Rep. Jim Banks enters eace, former Governor Mitch Daniels mulls run after Sen. Mike Braun announces governor bid
With the 2022 midterm in the rearview, attention has already moved to 2024 primary elections. As Republicans seek to move on from a poorer than expected performance last fall, there is much discussion about the future of the GOP. Indiana Senator Mike Braun is not seeking re-election and instead running to take the place of outgoing governor Eric Holcomb, and a contest with significant implications is beginning in Indiana to take his place as GOP senate nominee.
Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana’s Third Congressional District was the first to enter the race, announcing his bid on January 17, about a month after Braun’s decision to not seek re-election. In his announcement video, Banks touts his working-class background and military service. “Radical socialist Democrats are trying to change America, but I won’t let them,” continues Banks. The congressman highlights his conservative credentials on immigration, abortion, transgenderism, and education, concluding with a promise to “fight for our American way of life.” An Afghanistan veteran, Banks began in local and state politics before winning election to his Congressional seat in 2016. He was an ally of the Trump administration and became chairman of the Republican Study Committee in 2020.
Banks’ Republican colleague in the House, Representative Victoria Spartz, is considering a run for the seat. Banks faces another potential challenger in former Indiana governor and recently retired President of Purdue University Mitch Daniels. Daniels has recently met with Senators to determine if the position is fit for him. “I’m not the least bit worried, honestly, about losing an election. I’m worried about winning it and regretting it for six years,” said Daniels last week. Daniels is widely regarded as a moderate conservative willing to compromise and work across the aisle. In an interview last summer, Daniel lamented the political polarization he perceives in America: “I think both parties have come to be dominated by their fringe. Extreme left. Extreme right.” He echoed similar themes when speaking with Politico, saying, “What bothers me more is the tribalism. I’ve been fretting about that in public and in commencement addresses for many years now. And it’s not gotten better.” Described by much of the press as a member of the Republican establishment, Daniels is seen as a contrast to the more aggressively conservative Banks. Not all hold this view, however, with one columnist at National Review claiming, “People like Daniels are trying to get the Republican Party back on the conservative track.”
Daniels’ conservative critics frequently point to a remark he made to the Weekly Standard in 2010 calling for a “truce on the so-called social issues” as the nation dealt with its fiscal problems, comments which some see as evidence of his being overly centrist.
Banks has already received an endorsement from the Club for Growth Political Action Committee. “Jim Banks is a proven conservative and a champion for economic freedom, liberty, and opportunity―we are proud to endorse his campaign for Indiana Senate,” said the organization’s President David McIntosh. The group recently launched an advertisement attacking Daniels as an “an old guard Republican clinging to the old ways of the bad old days.” Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton have endorsed Banks, as has former Trump advisor Stephen Miller.
The race has naturally garnered the interest of conservatives at Notre Dame. Professor James O’Brien is the faculty advisor for the Notre Dame College Republicans and has been involved in local Republican politics. He believes both Daniels and Banks are well qualified for a Senate seat: “I know both men and they each bring unique skill sets to the table. Either of them would be an outstanding addition to the U.S. Senate. The only person I would be more enthusiastic about for the open US Senate seat would be Congressman Rudy Yakym.”
Walter Nicgorski, a Rover faculty advisor and professor emeritus in the Program of Liberal Studies, is a long time observer of Indiana Republican politics. According to Nicgorski, Daniels’ experience in both state and national politics and his “pragmatic, problem solving style” make him an attractive candidate to many, though his attentiveness to “conditions for happiness for his family and himself” may keep him from entering the race: “Mitch is 73 years old and has real doubts about spending his next seven plus years running for the Senate and then holding a six year term.”
Banks “will be seen by many Hoosiers as a more reliable social conservative,” states Nicgorski, and his attempt to delay certification of the 2020 election “will bring him some supporters and some opponents in a primary.” Nicgorski foresees a growing primary field: “Whether or not Mitch Daniels enters the race, I think others will be entering, including the possibility that Indiana’s sitting governor Eric Holcomb” announces a run.
PJ Butler, President of the Notre Dame College Republicans, endorses Banks in the race: “Jim Banks has been an excellent representative for Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District, and I enthusiastically support his run to succeed Senator Braun in the upper chamber.” Butler praises Banks’ record as “pro-life, pro-family, and pro-worker voice” who has led “efforts to take on big tech and decouple our economy from China’s.” He describes Daniels as “a proven entity statewide and should not be underestimated in this race.” However, Butler claims that “the Republican Party is not the same as it was when he last ran for office in 2012.”
Most importantly, Butler believes, “Indiana deserves a senator who will truly champion both the interests and cultural values of its citizens rather than simply falling in line with the failed political establishment that currently oversees America’s managed decline.”
Adam Morys is a junior from Downingtown, Pennsylvania majoring in history and philosophy with a minor in constitutional studies. When he is not reading, you can find him listening to music and taking walks around campus. Please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, from Gage Skidmore