Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said Thursday he would decide "within weeks" whether to run for president in 2012, even as he prepared to host Barack Obama for the first time since the Democrat moved into the White House.
Daniels said he has gotten more encouragement to run for the nation's top office following trips this week to Washington and New York.
"I'll just say I met a lot more folks who want me think about it," Daniels said. "The diversity of these people seems to be growing, so you weigh that. But I haven't digested it just yet."
Obama plans to visit Indiana Friday for the fifth time since he took office in 2009, but Daniels has said he was busy and couldn't meet with the president on his previous trips.
Spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said the governor's schedule was open Friday allowing him to meet the president at the airport. She could not recall why he missed Obama's previous trips.
Indiana political observers said the change from Daniels may have as much to do with his presidential ambitions as wanting to bask in the glow of the president who found, and killed, Osama bin Laden.
"It would be unusual, even ungracious, for any governor to avoid the president in the wake of a successful mission to capture or, as it turned out, kill Osama bin Laden," said Russell Lee Hanson, chairman of Indiana University Political Science Department.
Obama will be talking about energy policy at the Allison Transmission plant in Indianapolis on his fifth trip to the Hoosier state. He won Indiana over Republican John McCain by slightly more than 1 percentage point in the 2008 election.
Daniels previous reluctance to stand by the president on Indiana trips probably stemmed from the national partisan divide which has developed over the last few decades, said Hanson's IU colleague Jeffrey Hart, a political science professor and registered Democrat.
"Normally people are so delighted to have the president, whatever the party, because it's a great opportunity to have some media attention. But the way things have been going in partisan politics, I don't think there's any love lost between these two individuals," he said. "It could be with the death of Osama that to be a Republican next to the president is not so bad."
Daniels, along with many other high-profile Republicans, decided not to attend Thursday's first debate among potential Republican candidates in Greenville, S.C.
Daniels spoke to reporters Thursday after signing into law the nation's broadest school voucher program and another measure that aims to expand charter schools. Both are key issues for conservatives and were touted by the governor during a speech Wednesday at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
When asked after Thursday's bill signing what he would say to the president Friday, Daniels replied: "'Welcome to Indiana.'"