An effort to convince Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to run for the White House launched Monday on the Internet.
Pence, a 51-year-old former radio broadcaster who has described himself as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf," is trying to decide whether to run for governor in his home state next year or enter the GOP presidential primary. Hoping to persuade him to keep his ambitions national, several high-profile fans are forming a committee to kick his presidential campaign into gear.
"Mike Pence has demonstrated the ability to enthusiastically advance the cause of conservatives and constitutional, limited government and for that reason I am encouraging him to get in the race,” said Jim Ryun, a former Kansas congressman and Olympic runner who is lending his name to the draft-Pence movement.
Ralph Benko, a former Reagan administration official and conservative Internet strategist who is spearheading the effort, said that Pence "unifies fiscal, social and national security conservatives" within the party. Benko and Ryun have formed the America's President Committee, organized to make independent expenditures on Pence's behalf, and set up a website to gather online signatures for their petition drive.
Pence's office had no comment.
The congressman won the Values Voter presidential straw poll last year, but his heavy speaking schedule in Indiana has led to speculation more recently that he would forego a possible challenge to President Obama and run instead to succeed the state's governor, Mitch Daniels -- another Republican being mentioned as a presidential candidate. On Monday, Pence is scheduled to be in Indiana making three public appearances in his district: two Martin Luther King Day speeches and one town hall meeting.
On the other hand, Pence has continued to burnish his conservative credentials on national issues, introducing legislation to deny funding to Planned Parenthood and delivering an impassioned welcome-to-Congress speech that urged the GOP's new House majority to "keep our promises" on cutting the budget.
Pence's staunch conservatism has sometimes put him at odds with his party leadership. In 2006, he challenged then-Minority Leader John Boehner for the party's top House job, arguing that Republicans has "lost their way." Late last year, Pence gave up a position in the House Republican leadership, a move that signaled his desire to run for higher office.