Amid an outcry from conservatives, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels edged away on Friday from his comment that the next president should call a "truce" on social issues.
Daniels said the remark was just a suggestion, reflecting how urgently he feels about other problems such as the economy, national debt, homeland security and America's role in the world.
"I picked the word truce because no one has to change their point of view. No one has to surrender," Daniels said. "We might simply try to come together. I think it will take that if we're going to address what I believe are the most urgent problems of the country."
Daniels' idea, reported in The Weekly Standard this week in a flattering profile, riled some social conservatives.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2012, said on his website that social issues are moral issues, not political issues or bargaining chips.
"Governor Daniels is a personal friend and a terrific governor, and I'm very disappointed that he would think that pro-life and pro-family activists would just lie down," Huckabee says on his site before asking for donations for his political action committee.
"A strong leader doesn't need to focus myopically on one or two issues," Huckabee wrote. "But a strong leader is willing to fight for and defend their principles while rising to meet new challenges and solve all of the existing systemic problems confronting us."
Daniels may be taking some heat, but his idea of a truce won't hurt him if he should decide to run for president in 2012, said Robert Dion, a professor of American politics at the University of Evansville.
"It's a very appealing idea to try to ratchet down the unpleasantness and seek common ground," Dion said. "It makes perfect sense for him to adopt a stance that aims for what most Americans are sort of secretly yearning for, and that's a calmer tone and a little more cooperation."
The Weekly Standard article and the fact that Daniels' political action committee, Aiming Higher, is hosting a fundraiser Monday in Washington, D.C., have raised more speculation that Daniels might be considering a presidential run.
Daniels said Friday that he has nothing new to say about that. He said in February that he doesn't want to run but would keep the door open to the possibility.
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