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Politics / Campaign 2012

The White House Will Have to Wait: Pence's Ambitions Are at Home

Republican congressman tells supporters: 'We choose Indiana.'

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., says he will not run for president in 2012. That leads many to believe he'll run for governor of his home state.(Chet Susslin)

photo of Billy House
January 27, 2011

Updated at 7:15 p.m. on January 27.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., will not run for the presidency in 2012, disappointing conservatives who have been urging him to do so. The decision makes him the clear front-runner to succeed Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, another potential candidate for the GOP presidential nomination next year.

Pence ended months of public speculation with a letter to supporters, first reported by the Indianapolis Star. "In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana,” the six-term House member wrote.

 

Though he said he would decide his next step “later this year,” a run for governor seems all but certain. In his letter to supporters, Pence said he will now “be traveling across the state to listen and learn about how Hoosiers think we might best contribute in the years ahead.”

Pence’s decision removes from the potential GOP field a long shot whose record as a fiscal and social conservative made him attractive to a broad range of Republicans on the party’s right wing. He was the surprise winner of the straw poll at last year’s Values Voters Summit, a gathering of social conservatives.

A former radio talk-show host, Pence also was the chief House sponsor of the so-called reporters’ shield legislation, which would provide federal protection to reporters trying to keep their sources confidential.

After winning his sixth House term in November, Pence announced that he would be stepping down from House GOP leadership as Republican Conference chairman and its third-ranking member, and would share plans for his political future by the end of this month.

There had been speculation that Pence was eyeing a run for governor in 2012 (term limits prevent Daniels from running again). But there also had been speculation that he could make a bid for the presidency, and some conservative groups and leaders -- including former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican who has been active in the tea party movement -- launched efforts to convince him to do so.

While his self-imposed end-of-January deadline for announcing his intentions loomed, Pence continued to give no hint as to what they might be. “His mother has told him he needs to make a decision, though,” Ted Ogle, the GOP chairman in Pence's home county of Bartholomew in Indiana, told National Journal hours before the congressman announced his decision.

In the interview, Ogle correctly predicted that Pence’s announcement would be low-key and would focus on what he has decided not to do. He noted there are technical reasons for that.

Ogle said Pence would probably withhold a declaration of candidacy for governor because of the Indiana law prohibiting candidates from fundraising until the end of the state legislative session, set for April. Ogle said he was rooting for Pence to keep his ambitions in-state.

“I want him to run for governor. I think he would be a good transition for the state from Mitch Daniels,” he said.

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