Just a reminder: Primary season begins next Wednesday.
House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) is considering stepping down from his post in the GOP leadership in preparation for a possible bid for president or governor in 2012.
Pence, a darling of the conservative movement, would leave the leadership job with a blunt explanation to colleagues that he can’t commit to a two-year term in House leadership, a source familiar with his deliberations told POLITICO Tuesday.
Pence believes it would be inappropriate to stay at the GOP conference post – the no. 3 spot in the House Republican hierarchy – unless he could stay through 2012, the source said. Pence also believes that he can be a more effective conservative voice if he is free of the responsibilities that he would have in leadership of a House Republican majority…
Still, Pence faces hurdles in any endeavor — statewide or nationwide. Should he dip his toe in the presidential waters, he’d face questions about his fiscal conservatism. Although he staked out ground as a fiscal hawk over the past few years, he took earmarks until 2008. Furthermore, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is another strong contender in the 2012 presidential race, in which case Pence would be under pressure not to get in.
Why would Pence be under pressure not to get in if Daniels declares? Yeah, they’re both Hoosiers, but so what? Pence is better known than Daniels and is beloved by social conservatives (he beat Huckabee in the Values Voter Summit straw poll, remember) whereas Daniels has to drag around the baggage from his infamous bon mot about calling a truce on social issues. Granted, he doesn’t have Team Bush backing him the way Daniels does, but again, so what? In an age where “establishment Republican” has become a dirty phrase, Bush’s connections aren’t a pure asset for Daniels by any means. Especially if he wins the nomination: Imagine what Obama and Plouffe and Axelrod will do in the campaign with Daniels’s Bush pedigree.
The question is, will Pence run if Palin and/or Huckabee get in? He can try to position himself to Huck’s right on taxes and immigration, but he and Palin would end up fighting over the same fiscal con/social con grassroots constituency, no? And she’s got way, waaay higher name recognition than he does. If neither of them run, then Pence actually could be well positioned for an upset in Iowa. Remember, Huck won there in 2008 on the strength of the social con vote; Pence would clean up among that group if his chief rivals are Romney and Daniels. Expect lots and lots and lots of visits to Iowa starting … last July, actually. Here’s his speech at the Values Voters Summit, in case you missed it. The crowd loved every minute.