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  • Writer's pictureJosh Lewis

148 – Conservatism in Practice with Gov Mitch Daniels

The Saving Elephants podcast has welcomed a wide array of incredible guests who are on forefront of the conservative political movement.  But most of the guests discuss conservatism from the perspective of a theory or set of principles or idea.  Few have had the opportunity to enact political conservatism as a practice.  And few ex-politicians have been as successful as former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in advancing conservatism as a practice.  While Daniels is reticent to label his approach “conservative” or identify as part of red team vs. blue team, his practices in executive offices from the governor’s mansion to serving in presidential administrations to leading a university have all displayed a strong tinge of conservative prudence and small-government grit.


Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis welcomes former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to the show to discuss his experiences as governor, advisor to Ronald Reagan, Director of OMB for George W. Bush, president of Purdue University.  His accomplishments in these offices and no-nonsense approach towards governing has earned him recognition among many on the Right.  Some leading conservatives—from George Will to Jonah Goldberg to Ross Douthat—have clearly stated he would have been their preferred presidential candidate in recent elections.  While Daniels isn’t a presidential candidate then or now, his story provides a roadmap in our politically bleak wilderness for what qualities we should be looking for in a leader.


About Mitch Daniels from Purdue University

Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. is the 12th president of Purdue University and the former governor of Indiana.  He was elected Indiana’s 49th governor in 2004 in his first bid for any elected office, and then re-elected in 2008 with more votes than any candidate in the state's history.  During his tenure, Indiana went from an $800 million deficit to its first AAA credit rating, led the nation in infrastructure building and passed sweeping education and healthcare reforms.


After a series of transformations, which included the biggest tax cut in state history, the nation’s most sweeping deregulation of the telecommunications industry and a host of other reforms aimed at strengthening the state’s economy, Indiana was rated a top five state for business climate and number one for state infrastructure and effectiveness of state government as Daniels exited office.  Indiana’s business climate is now rated among the nation’s best.


At Purdue, Daniels has prioritized student affordability and reinvestment in the university’s strengths.  Breaking with a 36-year trend, Purdue has held tuition unchanged from 2012 through at least the 2022-23 academic year.  Simultaneously, room rates have remained steady, meal plan rates have fallen about 10%, and student borrowing has dropped 32% while investments in student success and STEM research have undergone unprecedented growth. It is less expensive to attend Purdue today than it was in 2012.


In recognition of his leadership as both a governor and a university president, Daniels was named among the Top 50 World Leaders by Fortune Magazine in 2015 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.


Prior to becoming governor, Daniels served as chief of staff to Senator Richard Lugar, senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan and Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.  He also was the CEO of the Hudson Institute, a major contract research organization.  During an 11-year career at Eli Lilly and Company, he held a number of top executive posts including president of Eli Lilly’s North American pharmaceutical operations.


Daniels earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a law degree from Georgetown.  He is the author of three books and a contributing columnist in the Washington Post.  He and his wife Cheri have four daughters and seven grandchildren.


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