Erick Erickson reports this morning that Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) has decided to stay in the House in anticipation of a Republican takeover rather than run against Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN). A second source indicates Erick is correct, which may be both a disappointment and a relief:
Sources are confirming for me this morning that Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) will not run for the United States Senate.
In fact, later today the Congressman will send out a letter to supporters outlining his reasons. In it he will write:
First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.
Lots of people on the outside have been pushing Pence, but he has all along seemed interested in staying to fight for 2010. A Senate run would bring into question his ability to lead the House GOP Conference at the same time.
This is refreshing news to many conservatives who were fearful that Pence leaving the House would leave its leadership devoid of a truly conservative voice.
Early polling had Pence edging Bayh already, and Bayh was certainly vulnerable. He only got 45% against any of the three potential Republican challengers (44% against Pence’s 47%) according to a Rasmussen poll. With Democrats on the defensive and Indiana a critical state in the cap-and-trade debate, Pence probably could have trounced Bayh.
However, in order to do that, he would have had to step on the toes of another 1994 Contract with America veteran, former Rep. John Hostettler. Hostettler also polled within the margin of error in the race, and perhaps Pence’s withdrawal will boost his chances. Conservatives in Indiana had already begun protesting Pence’s considered move into the race, and it would have opened a rare rift between classic fiscal conservatives in a state where Republicans should do well regardless.
This could be addition by subtraction, depending on how good a candidate Hostettler will be in a statewide race. Bayh has a big war chest already, but the winds are not at his back — and Indiana voters have to think about the cap-and-trade bill that will decimate their state economy if Democrats wind up with enough votes in the Senate to pass it in the 112th Congress.
Erick has the full letter that will go to Pence’s supporters. He also speculates that Pence may be aiming higher — but the last President to win an election from the House was James Garfield (the only one to do it directly) 130 years ago. He would need to aim at the governor’s job first, and that will open up in 2012, the same time as the presidential election. One pass through the Governor’s mansion might put Pence in position for a 2016 bid.
Update: There’s also Marlin Stutzman, who polled double-digits behind Bayh. He’s a former state Senator who hasn’t yet won a state-wide race (and neither has Hostettler or Pence, for that matter). Still, former state Senators seem to be in vogue at the moment ….