Three sources close to Republican Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana tell CNN they are told he will announce he is not running for president in 2012 and will instead begin exploring a run for governor.
These sources say he has been flattered by the efforts to nudge him into the GOP presidential race but, as one of the sources put it, “he is a realist and kept coming back to questions about the fund-raising.” The second source said some around Pence also have reminded him of the difficulty of mounting a presidential campaign from the House, and noted that, at age 51, he would have a better platform to explore a presidential run if he first was elected governor.
The Republican congressman from Indiana’s 6th Congressional District easily won re-election in November, beating his Democratic challenger by more than a two- to-one margin.
The third ranking House Republican then announced that he would step down at the end of the year from his leadership role as Republican Conference Chairman, sparking more speculation that Pence might be gearing up for a White House bid or a run for Indiana governor.
The current governor, Republican Mitch Daniels, is term limited, and also the subject of speculation over a possible White House bid. Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, also a Republican, announced late last month that she would not make a bid for the state’s top job, increasing speculation that Pence would run for Indiana governor.
While Pence polls in the low single digits in most national surveys on a hypothetical 2012 GOP nomination match-up, he did create a lot of buzz by winning the presidential straw poll at the Values Voter Summit in September.
Earlier this month, two separate groups launched efforts to draft Pence make a bid for the White House.
If he announces for governor, a state ethics law passed last year would prevent Pence from campaigning immediately for the job. The measure prohibits political fundraising by candidates for statewide office until the completion of the state legislature’s session, which this year is scheduled to finish up in late April.
Update by Doug: (h/t Stacy) It looks like Rick Perry, in his capacity as the new chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA), may have something to do with Pence’s decision. Via Jim Geraghty at the National Review:
Well, this explains a bit: I’m told that Mike Pence was the first candidate recruitment call that Texas Gov. Rick Perry made as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and that RGA Vice Chairman Bob McDonnell and Executive Director Phil Cox had a follow-up meeting with Pence yesterday in Washington.
This is an excellent recruitment by Perry, although I think Pence was going to run for Governor regardless. In any case, this will give Republicans a big name to run against whomever the Democrats recruit to replace the retiring Mitch Daniels in 2012. It’s difficult to identify any potential candidate of Pence’s stature on the Democrat side (I think we can rule Evan Bayh out).
Indiana will be an important state in the 2012 presidential sweepstakes. Obama won Indiana for Democrats in 2008 for the first time in 40 years, albeit by less than one percent. Daniels, on the other hand, won his re-election by 18%. That represents a 19% swing between the two races, and ticket-splitting of that magnitude is not the norm in Indiana (or anywhere else, for that matter), and certainly not something Democrats can count on in 2012. The fact that Republicans will have a strong candidate for Governor in 2012 makes it even less likely that we will see a repeat of 2008 in the Hoosier state.