Mike Pence Not Running for President, Governor Bid Likely

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 27, 2011   |   5:33PM   |   Indianapolis, IN

In a long-awaited announcement, pro-life Congressman Mike Pence will not seek the Republican nomination for president and will leave open the possibility of a gubernatorial bid.

Pence has ruled out a presidential bid and will tour the state over the next few months as he decides on whether to seek the governor’s position or run for re-election to his congressional seat. Pence can’t raise funds for a gubernatorial race until April 30 — giving him plenty of time to make a decision.

“In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana,” Pence said. “We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.”

Pence said he would make a decision “later this year” about his next political step, though he appeared to telegraph his next move saying saying his “calling is closer to home” and added he would “be traveling across the state to listen and learn about how Hoosiers think we might best contribute in the years ahead.”

“I have learned to follow my heart, and my heart is in Indiana,” he added.

Former Pence Political Director Jerry Alexander told Roll Call about the decision and said he won’t announce a gubernatorial bid because not doing so allows him to raise money for his congressional campaign fund that can be used towards a gubernatorial bid.

“So basically if Mike Pence were to announce he was a candidate for governor tomorrow, that would mean he couldn’t raise any money,” Alexander said. “He can say I am not running for president and still be able to raise money as a House candidate and use that money for governor’s race.”

Though the announcement dashes the hopes of some pro-life advocates, who appreciate his consistent pro-life position and aggressive battleagainst taxpayer funding of the Planned Parenthood abortion business, Pence’s potential decision to consider a gubernatorial bid would make him virtually a shoo-in for the position given the lack of any major opponents on either side of the political aisle. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, a popular Republican, will not be running and no top-tier candidate has emerged from either the Republican or Democratic ranks.

As governor, should he eventually run, Pence would be able to push for additional pro-life legislation in the Midwestern state and could help the eventual Republican nominee successful wrest the state back from the Obama column, as it went for the president in the 2008 election.

For months, Pence has been weighing whether or not to run for president or become a gubernatorial candidate in his home state to replace outgoing Governor Mike Daniels in 2012, who is a possible presidential contender himself. Pence’s move, which he will formally announce later today, would appear to open the door further for Daniels, with whom Pence recently met privately, to mount his own Republican presidential campaign without having to face a fellow Hoosier in the primary.

Pence stepped down from his position in the last session of Congress as the number three House Republican and will not hold the leadership post in this session of Congress – a decision that ramped up speculation about whether he would run for president.

Had Pence sought the GOP nomination, he would likely have faced a tough challenge ahead as few Americans are intimately familiar with him — a problem that has kept a member of the House of Representatives from becoming president since James Garfield in the 1800′s. He would face a potentially crowded field that could possibly include well-known pro-life contenders like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Other pro-life potential candidates include Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour and Herman Cain, the businessman who has already started an exploratory committee.

Last fall, the presidential talk got a boost when Pence won the straw poll at the Values Voters Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council and other pro-family, pro-life groups.

Former Rep. Jim Ryan, a pro-life Kansas Republican, and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas had put together a petition effort to urge Pence to run.