Some conservative House members who are part of the Republican Study Committee are meeting at the Reagan Library right about now for a Heritage Foundation retreat. Indiana congressman Mike Pence was supposed to be among them, but he cancelled. Why? Because he’s up against a self-imposed end-of-January deadline about his own political future: Will he run for governor of Indiana? Will he run for president of the United States?
As we’ve noted here, there’s a “draft Pence” movement afoot in some quarters. I find it a bit fascinating. The obvious answer to a bad experience having a senator as president doesn’t seem to be go to the House. Mike Pence is a good, conservative legislator. But why now? Wouldn’t we all be better off — including Indiana, which would have a good governor in Mike Pence — if he had executive experience under his belt?
But yesterday I heard the best explanation yet for why Mike Pence would, could, and perhaps absolutely should run for president now, from a longtime senior Republican political aide who believes the “Why now?” question is exactly what leads to the answer that Mike Pence should run. This aide explained that 2012 would be Pence’s moment: “If you’re a smart, ambitious, medium-age pol . . . do you want to run against John Thune and Mitt Romney and [etc.] now? Or do you want to run against rock stars later?” Among the names he rattled off for future presidential candidates were Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, John Kasich, and Rob Portman. The aide, who has 20 years of experience in national politics, continued: “We are golden down the road. We don’t have a candidate this time. We need somebody. We’re going to have an embarrassment of riches before too long.”
My conversant continued: “People are looking around. . . . Mike Pence isn’t necessarily beating the best lineup we’ve ever had down the road. But if it’s 2011 and Mitt Romney is the frontrunner, you’re in a good place if you’re Mike Pence.”
This particular politico believes the issues that Pence is most passionate about are national ones. So while “ it would be a smooth road to the governor’s office” for Pence in Indiana, that’s not the choice he’d advise.
A source close to Pence confirms this is the decision he’s deliberating as I write, that it’s why he’s skipping the RSC/Heritage event, and that we can expect to hear Pence’s plans shortly.