The nation’s loss is Indiana’s gain as respected pro-life conservative Congressman Mike Pence has announced he will be seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2012 as many pro-life advocates hoped he would run for president instead.
Pence ended months of speculation Thursday when he announced he would mount a campaign to replace Gov. Mitch Daniels, a pro-life Republican who has upset pro-life advocates with his talk of a truce on abortion but who promised to sign legislation de-funding Planned Parenthood.
“We need to live within our means and embrace policies that will create good jobs, great schools, safe streets and strong families,” he said. “Any real Hoosier knows any important race begins in the month of May.”
Pence described his decision to run as the “worst kept secret in politics and he had hoped to announce his campaign on Monday, but postponed the decision because of the national news surrounding the killing of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Ladin. Pence said he planned a formal campaign kickoff on June 11 in Columbus, Indiana, his hometown.
Republican Governors Association Chairman Governor Rick Perry said in a statement responding to Pence’s decision calling it a “major blow” to Democrats hoping to win back the governor’s seat in the Hoosier state.
“Congressman Pence’s decision to run for governor guarantees that Republicans will field a top-tier candidate for Indiana governor in 2012 and is a major blow to Democrats’ hopes of regaining the governor’s mansion. Rep. Pence’s consistent conservatism has earned him admiration nationally as well as at home in Indiana, and his reputation as a bold thinker would serve him well as governor. The RGA welcomes Mike Pence to the governor’s race,” Perry said.
Pence is widely considered the favorite to win the Republican nomination, especially after Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said earlier this year she will not seek the office. Former House Speaker John Gregg is considered a leading potential candidate for Democrats but Rep. Joe Donnelly is another possibility. Former Sen. Evan Bayh and Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel have both decided against running for the position where Daniels is term limited.
Earlier this year, when he decided to opt against a campaign for the presidency, Pence said his heart was in Indiana.
“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.”
“I have learned to follow my heart, and my heart is in Indiana,” he added.
Pence has delighted pro-life advocates who appreciate his consistent pro-life position and aggressive battle against taxpayer funding of the Planned Parenthood abortion business. 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.
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.