Pence's schedule hints at gubernatorial, not presidential, run

Is the Pence for President boomlet over?  Howey Politics Indiana got a peek at the Indiana Congressman’s schedule and says it never got started.  Mike Pence has filled his schedule for the next several weeks with appearances throughout Indiana, not Iowa or New Hampshire, meaning that either Pence has decided that Indiana’s late primary will be the key to a presidential nomination, or he’s running for Governor:

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence is scheduling Republican Lincoln Days Dinner all over Indiana, Howey Politics Indiana has learned. It is the best clue yet that he is preparing to launch a 2012 Indiana gubernatorial campaign, as opposed to seeking the presidency. “He is scheduling larger counties,” a Republican source told HPI on Monday. “If he is running for President, it would be an interesting and novel strategy. We could call it the Win Indiana Strategy!” If Pence were to launch a presidential campaign, he would be more likely to spend this winter and spring in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – the key early primary and caucus states.

The gubernatorial race is wide open at the moment.  Mitch Daniels is term-limited and cannot run for re-election, and he’s clearly aiming at the GOP nomination in 2012.  His Lieutenant Governor has publicly withdrawn from consideration due to “minor health issues,” which means that Pence would be the natural Republican frontrunner.  Evan Bayh has already announced that he won’t run for his old job, which means that the Democrats won’t have a “star power” candidate to put up against him.  It’s a perfect situation for Pence to gain a significant executive position in preparation for a presidential run in the longer-term future — perhaps 2016 or 2020.

That will disappoint Pence backers, who hoped to see a presidential run from Pence in 2012.  Realistically speaking, that would have been nearly impossible.  Pence gave up his leadership position in the House this year, apparently planning to free up his time to make the gubernatorial run.  Only one President has won election from the House, and that was James Garfield more than 130 years ago.  Doing that as a backbencher would be even more difficult, especially after four years of having a man with no executive experience run the White House with disastrous results.  Republicans will want to offer proven executive competence as a remedy to the incompetence of Barack Obama, which means either a governor or (as a long shot) perhaps a high-profile private-sector leader along the lines of Herman Cain.

For Pence, though, this is a smart move and sets him up later for bigger platforms.  Pence will need a successful term under his belt to join a deepening GOP bench for the outer years, and a big win to succeed Daniels would help both men — Daniels now, and Pence in the future.