Pence Takes First Step Toward a Possible Run

Posted: November 5, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Amid the flurry of post-election news coverage, Mike Pence announced his resignation as head of the House GOP conference.  This came as no surprise as the congressman had previously signaled his intention.

The real question now is: Will Pence run for governor of Indiana, or President of the United States?  The language of his announcement leaves wiggle room for either eventuality.

“As we consider new opportunities to serve Indiana and our nation in the years ahead, I have come to realize that it may not be possible to complete an entire term as conference chairman. As such, I think it would be more appropriate for me to step aside now, especially since there are other talented men and women in our conference who could do the job just as well or better.”

Ed Feigenbaum, publisher of Indiana Legislative Insight, echoes a familiar refrain on Pence’s chances for the Oval Office:

“If he takes a close and honest look at himself and tries to evaluate his political strengths and weaknesses, the one apparent weakness in his resume is management experience.”

The conventional thinking goes that Pence could successfully run for governor–current governor, Mitch Daniels, will be term limited out and is rumored to be considering a presidential bid himself–serve a term or two and then nicely round out his resume for a future presidential bid.

It’s true enough that House members rarely get elected to the White House.  The last time it happened was 1880, when James A. Garfield was the beneficiary of an exceedingly strange confluence of events. (For an engaging read on this topic, I strongly recommend:  Kenneth D. Ackerman’s Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield)

Conventional wisdom is right most of the time (otherwise, it wouldn’t be conventional wisdom) but that does not mean it is infallible.  Twenty years before Garfield, the nation chose to elect to its highest office a man whose prior experience in elected office amounted to a single term in the House of Representatives.  That man, Abraham Lincoln,  came to be remembered as one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history.

It is sometimes tempting to think that such political oddities as a Congressman (i.e., Garfield, Lincoln) or a barroom brawler (i.e., Jackson) becoming President were political blue moons reserved to 19th century, we’ve just come through an election cycle that saw the sitting governor of FL defeated in the primaries despite being supported by all the conventional political elites.  We have witnessed an absolutely historic wave of GOP elections in across the country.  We have witnessed sustained conservative activism (via the Tea Party movement) hinting that conservatives will, at long last, start matching the persistence and engagement of grass-roots Left wing groups.  In other words, all bets are off.

Ultimately, Pence would be best advised to take his own counsel on the options.  He probably can’t go wrong running for governor; But if he wants the top job, I see no reason he couldn’t win it.  All of the other putative front-runners have baggage of one sort or another to overcome.  As near as I can tell, Pence’s greatest challenge would be lack of name recognition and fundraising.  The first is very easily overcome in today’s 24/7 news cycle.  (Think about it.  How long did it take people to find out who Christine O’Donnell was?)  If fundraising during the midterm election is any indication, the grassroots are ready (and willing) to put money into candidates they believe in.  For my part, Pence, is someone I could see myself skipping a few meals to support.


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