He was once a lawyer who represented several farmer's advocacy groups before being elected to the United States Congress in 1980. He would serve in the House from 1981 until 1991, from December of 1990 until January of 1991 he served as the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. In January of 1991 he was nominated by President-Elect Owen Lassiter to be the Secretary of Agriculture, he would be unanimously confirmed by the Senate. In 1994 he would run to be Governor of Nebraska. He ran unopposed in the Republican Primaries and defeated the Democratic opponent a Nebraskan State Senator with 65% of the vote. He would be re-elected in 1998 with 73% of the vote.
After much question from many in the Republican Party, he announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a possible Presidential run in April of 2001, he then announced his candidacy in August. Originally Daniel was polling just below the front-runner Senator Jim Simon of South Dakota. However following the censure of President Bartlet the Republicans wanted to distance themselves from any connection to the President and so the support shifted from the "intelligent and worldly" Daniel and Simon to the "plain-spoken and homey" Governor Robert Ritchie of Florida. Ritchie won the Iowa Caucus which had been expected to go to Simon and Daniel who was previously expected to take second place ended up in third place instead. After Ritchie won the New Hampshire Primary (once again Simon came in second and Daniel in third) the majority of the Republicans dropped out of the race. Daniel stayed in the race and despite winning the Nevada Caucuses (by a small margin over Ritchie), he came in third in the Michigan Primary (which Simon won with Ritchie in second), and third in the South Carolina Primary. After having won the Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire Primary, South Carolina Primary, and Florida Primary; Ritchie was far ahead of the other contenders which forced Daniel out of the race.