If you’re wondering why this otherwise prosaic Bloomberg piece about Pence’s national future begins with a mention of the Koch brothers, it’s probably because the guy who wrote it worked for Paul Sarbanes and, briefly, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz before resuming his career as an impartial reporter.
But never mind that. Is Pence the dark horse?
“I have no doubt that he would make a great president,” said Steven Chancellor, the chief executive officer of Evansville, Indiana-based American Patriot Group, the parent of a company that makes ready-to-eat rations for the Pentagon. “He certainly distinguished himself in the House” and is “off to a great start as governor.”…
He spoke at the Washington-based Club for Growth’s annual conference in Florida in February and, during a trade visit to Europe this week, he is expected to criticize President Barack Obama for failing to counter the annexation of Crimea by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Five years ago, Pence scolded Obama for revising President George W. Bush’s missile defense plan in Eastern Europe because Russia opposed it…
Pence has won praise from small-government conservatives for taking action in Indiana to back away from Common Core education standards supported by another potential Republican candidate, Florida’s Bush. The Washington-based Heritage Foundation, in a Facebook posting, applauded him for rejecting Common Core.
His allies say Pence has developed bonds with the major constituencies within the Republican Party — the small-government crowd, anti-abortion rights groups, and defense hawks — without alienating business-oriented voters.
He’s well-known to grassroots righties as a full-spectrum conservative — socially, fiscally, and hawkish on defense. I remember commenters pleading with him in both 2008 and 2012 to jump in and spare them the agony of another squishy nominee. That would have been tough at the time, when he was known only for being a member of the House; famously, no congressman’s won the White House since Garfield in the 19th century. Now, though, he’s got a year of experience as governor of a midwestern swing state and will have two more years under his belt by the time Iowa votes in 2016. In fact, I believe he’s the only potential candidate in the GOP field who’s served as both the chief executive of a state and a federal legislator. He knows his way around in a way that none of his rivals do.
What’s his niche in the field if he decides to run, though? He might be too conservative for centrists who are more comfortable with Jeb or Christie, especially on immigration. He might be too hawkish and right-wing on social issues for libertarians who like Paul. And he might be too low-key for tea partiers who prefer Cruz. There’s a chance, I think, that he and Jindal would end up in the same box, as guys who are respected on all sides but who fail to excite any single constituency to the degree needed to build a movement. I see him as a potential compromise candidate if the party ends up deadlocked between the centrist champion and the tea-party champion — but then, I also see Scott Walker in the same role. Who wins if Walker and Pence end up competing to be white knight/dark horse that rescues the GOP from a bitter fight between Jeb and Rand at the eleventh hour? My hunch is that Walker does because he won the battle of Armageddon in Wisconsin, but that depends on how important immigration is in the primaries. I think Pence is more of a hawk than Walker is; he’s been a reliable borders-first guy whereas Walker is … more complicated. If Walker ends up struggling because of immigration, maybe Pence is the answer. They may be the only two guys with a legit shot to win who can play with both the establishment and the base.
Is the post-Paul GOP ready to nominate a guy, though, who not only supported invading Iraq but cast a vote in Congress to do so? Hillary did too, of course, but Hillary will back far, far away from that vote in the general election. Will Pence?