Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pence’

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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The latest rumors surrounding Rep. Mike Pence are that he is considering stepping down from his House Leadership position shortly after the mid-term elections in order to prepare for a run at either the presidency or the Indiana governorship.  Politico notes Pence, “he has made a number of high-profile stops all over the country, including most recently in Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

Mike Pence: While some argue Pence would face significant challenges in either race, it seems obvious to me that the hurdles to overcome in a presidential run are far greater than those that would face him in a gubernatorial campaign.  This is not to say, however, that Pence shouldn’t run for President.  I happen to think Pence brings some real strengths to the table.

Primary opponents are likely to argue Pence has no credibility as a fiscal conservative because he took earmarks until 2008.  This is an argument with more emotional than logical appeal.  A lot of people (myself included) who don’t really care for most of the government’s social programs nonetheless take advantage of them because the system has been set up in such a way that we currently cannot make ends meet without them.  This doesn’t mean we can’t be honest proponents for a new and better structuring of the nation’s fiscal house.  Similarly, if the best argument that can be levelled against Pence is that he took some earmarks, that seems pretty weak.  I’d want to know precisely what the nature of the earmarks were.  Was he building bridges to nowhere, or studying the mating habits of turtles…or were these earmarks that went to more productive, job-producing projects?

Furthermore, who else is going to have a stronger fiscal record than Pence? Romney passed proto-Obamacare in Massachusetts…Huckabee practiced a state-level version of Bush’s Big Government Conservatism in Arkansas…Palin was a sometime proponent of the earmarks in Alaska.  In contrast, Pence “led the unsuccessful opposition to Bush’s elephantine Medicare bill.” The only two people with “street cred” greater than Pence on fiscal matters would be Ron Paul and Mitch Daniels, both of whom are likely to have a very difficult time winning the support of the important social conservative base in the Republican Party.

While campaign funding is likely to be one of the early weaknesses of a Pence campaign, he is likely to have an advantage in the critical area of volunteer passion and enthusiasm.  As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “Pence has come to occupy an unusual niche over the past two years. He’s one of the few Washington political leaders who’s won widespread support among tea party activists.”

While it’s vogue in some circles to argue that Republicans have to surrender ground on social issues in order to win.  (Nevermind that it’s quite an odd strategy to secure victory by completely abandoning your base.)  I tend to think that America has not so much turned against social conservatives as it has turned against fakes and opportunists.  Against people who advocate for (or against) social issues only for political gain.  Pence gives every indication of being a down-the-line conservative who both capable of and willing to fuse the social and fiscal strains of conservatism into one coherent bloc.  Consider these words from his speech at the Values Voter Summit:

Now I know some say that Republicans should stay away from such issues this year…that the American people are focused on jobs and spending and our movement would do well to stand aside, bank the win and return to fight after this fiscal and economic crisis has passed, but we do not live in a world where an American leader can just focus on our financial ledger. A political party that would govern this great nation must be able to handle more than one issue at a time. We must focus on our fiscal crisis and support our troops. We must work to create jobs and protect innocent human life…To those who say we should focus on cutting spending, I say ‘Ok, let’s start by denying all federal funding for abortion at home and abroad! Stop funding research that destroys human embryos in the name of science…We must not remain silent when great moral battles are being waged. Those who would have us ignore the battle being fought over life … have forgotten the lessons of history. As in the days of a House divided, America’s darkest moments have come when economic arguments trumped moral principles…Men and women, we must demand, here and now, that the leaders of the Republican Party stand for life” and to do so without apology.

 

This blog is beginning as a way to indulge my passion for libertarian-conservative politics.  As I’m trying to learn all the ins and outs of WordPress while also trying to keep my head above water in this “summer of recovery”, let me be one of the first to jump the gun into 2012 by asking who you like that seems to be a legitimate possibility?

Though I would dearly love to see Chris Christie run, it seems highly unlikely.  He’s made a several blunt and unequivocal statements that he’s not running in 2012.  Ditto for Paul Ryan.

Of the remaining possibilities:

1.  Mike Pence:  Based on what I know of the congressman, I like him.  He’s a thorough social conservative…and what is perhaps even more rare, he’s a social conservative with an apparently solid record of fiscal conservatism too.  The downside:  he’s a congressman.  Historically, we just don’t elect Presidents straight from the House.  As far as I’m aware, he’s not held any governmental executive position prior.

2. Jim DeMint:  The senator has cajones.  You gotta respect that in anyone.  He was one of the first to openly break with the Party Establishment leaders and start embracing the Tea Party.  Additionally, I like his assertion that he’s got no interest in being part of a Republican Party that’s going to return to the big spending ways it embraced from about 1995-2008.  The downside, I don’t believe he’s ever served as a governmental executive.  Also, if the Senate remains closely divided going into 2012, do we really want to give up one of our few solid conservative senators?

3. Ron Paul:  Yes…he’s definitely got an “affable nerd” thing going on…but Paul is one of the most philosophical guys we’ve got in D.C.  He’s an idea man.  Even better, he has thought through the ideas he holds and will thoroughly explain (and tenaciously defend) them, if need be.  It would be refreshing to have a leader who didn’t need to check with pollsters to find out what he believed this week.  One of the biggest pluses for Paul is his advocacy for a sound and stable currency.  No matter what anyone says, while government meddling and spineless business practices played a huge part in our recession, I just can’t believe that a currency ultimately backed by nothing more than the good judgement and restraint of politicians is a very good idea.  Frankly, I’m surprised the system has worked as long as it has–and had it not be for Reagan, I suspect we would’ve faced this reckoning much earlier.

Next time:  Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal