Indiana governor Mike Pence on Friday dined with a group of about 40 top Republican donors at Palm Beach’s exclusive Everglades Club. The dinner was hosted and organized by investment manager Thomas W. Smith, who has been a generous donor to conservative causes. The billionaire investor Wilbur Ross was also present.
Pence, whom many conservatives urged to run for president in 2012, has openly said he is considering a White House bid this time around. One factor that will certainly weigh into his decision is whether he can raise enough money to compete in what’s sure to be a crowded primary field. On Friday, with a group of establishment-minded donors, Pence “knocked it out of the park,” according to one person present at the dinner.
The governor told the crowd he would have voted against the cromnibus spending bill but, on the more pertinent question, he remained coy about his future, saying he would make a decision in the spring. Pence is a potential dark-horse: a stalwart conservative with a gentler approach to politics than, say, Ted Cruz, with executive experience to boot. The only other potential 2016 contender with experience at both the federal and the state level is Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who also served in Congress.
As the Washington Post’s Phil Rucker pointed out, Pence faces a dilemma: If he runs for president, Indiana law prohibits him from running for reelection as governor. So he’s unlikely to make a White House bid unless he thinks he has a legitimate shot, and that, of course, means sounding out a lot of the party’s top donors.