Republicans are hoping the state party already had a lot of advance ticket sales for the Statesman's dinner this year. The Tennessee GOP scored big when it landed Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as the guest speaker for its annual banquet July 15. The fiscal conservative and "grown-up" was seen as the candidate the Republican Party establishment could support and was thought likely to announce his presidential run any day.
But Daniels said last weekend that he has given up his plans to run, citing family considerations. The annual Nashville fund-raiser is still expected to be a popular ticket.
The Statesman's dinner has traditionally been one of the first stops on the presidential trail. The Daniels gambit had been a hot ticket for party insiders, bringing to mind the year they hosted the governor of Texas in the late '90s—at the time, one of the rare out-of-state speeches delivered by Gov. George Bush. Last year's speaker was former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who announced this week he is in the race.