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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 01/21/2011

Mike Pence -- will he or won't he?

By Jennifer Rubin

The latest buzz in Republican circles concerns whether Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) will throw his hat into the presidential-candidate ring.

It is a measure of how wide open the Republican field is that Pence is seriously considering a run, and prominent movement conservatives are urging him to run. Normally, a multi-term congressman would not be the sort of figure that anti-Washington conservative activists would rush to support. And having learned the hard way that a president with no executive experience has a steep learning curve, conservatives might be expected to look for a business leader, a governor or a military figure.

But this cycle many conservatives are looking for two things: electability and ideological toughness. In short, the base seems not inclined to follow the advice of those who cheered Christine O'Donnell (the most conservative in the field, electability be damned) or be swayed by premature polls.

Pence certainly has the ideological bona fides. Social conservatives are among his biggest supporters. He's voted against the bailouts and has advocated for conservative economic principles for decades. On defense, he's rejected the neo-isolationist temptation. There might be others with a comparable profile, but there are few with any chance in the general election who are going to run to his right.

As for electability, we'll find out only if Pence gets in the race. Does he excite a crowd? Does he have the organizational chops to win early states? And in tone and message, does he seem likely to attract independent voters? We can speculate on each of these, but you don't know until a candidate gets into the mix whether he has the potential to turn out his base and capture centrists. He might be the next Fred Thompson (a major disappointment to the right) or he might be the figure around whom insiders and Tea Partyers can rally.

He has a few challenges. As one of 365 435 members in the House, it is harder for him than for a governor to show what he did to implement conservative ideas. As a congressman in his sixth term, he's not the freshest face on the scene. And while he eloquently sings Ronald Reagan's praises, he'll need a fresher tag line than "Reagan Republican" to win.

All of that may not matter as much as it used to. Increasingly, American campaigns are less about what you have done and more about what you believe and how comfortable voters feel with a candidate. (If you doubt it, ask Hillary Clinton about trying to run an "experience" campaign.)

One final thought: Pence put forth a very credible and tough comprehensive immigration reform plan in opposition to the one set forth by President George W. Bush in 2007. If Republicans are interested in expanding their base to reach Hispanic voters, a candidate with impeccable conservative credentials and an interesting proposal for comprehensive immigration reform could be what the party needs.

And if he doesn't run for president, what better figure is there to primary Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)?

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 21, 2011; 10:44 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Comments

Pence's nomination would guarantee that BHO would dominate union,blacks,hispanics,other minorities,Jews,and students-the young. Obama would win the popular vote. However,Pence could win anyway in the electoral college,which should prove to be very close.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 21, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Pence has a perfect voting record -- against No Child Left Behind, against the Prescription Drug Benefit, against TARP, against the Stimulus, and against the premature tax compromise that guaranteed Obama reelection.

Posted by: Inagua1 | January 21, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Pence, Palin and Huck are Big Government Republicans who would be rejected by women, independents and Small Government Republicans.

Small Government Republicans want to cut government spending, taxes and intrusions into the private lives and bedrooms of Americans. They respect and honor the religious heritage of America, including the separation of church and state, but they fear politicians who try to leverage their religious beliefs for political power.

Other than a few speeches and bills, Pence has nothing to show for his years in Congress. Big money Small Government Republicans won't support Pence, Palin or Huck.

Romney looks "weak" at the moment because he's busy winning the money primary, not wearing out his welcome with voters this early in the election cycle, I think.

Posted by: donaldjohnson | January 21, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Small Government Republicans want to cut government spending, taxes and intrusions into the private lives and bedrooms of Americans. They respect and honor the religious heritage of America, including the separation of church and state, but they fear politicians who try to leverage their religious beliefs for political power.

Posted by: donaldjohnson | January 21, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse
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Oh, would that this were true! Maybe among the college-educated, but in a general election or a primary, "small-gov Republicans" certainly don't want to keep government out of the private lives and bedrooms of Americans. If any candidate went to the stump talking about legalizing gay marriage, marijuana, or really any Libertarian concern, he'd be booed out of the building faster than you can say CPAC.

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | January 21, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Justin, you're probably right, but growing numbers of Small Government Republicans, independents, women and Democrats are supporting gay rights and gay marriage while rejecting the legalization of pot, which destroys the minds of our teens.

Posted by: donaldjohnson | January 21, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

which destroys the minds of our teens.
Posted by: donaldjohnson

Have you been to an alcohol rehab clinic,or witnessed some teen having the DTs lately?
Get rid of all of it,or legalize all of it,nothing else makes sense.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 21, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Mike Pence has absolutely no chance of winning because he looks like the typical angry white guy. He supports nothing, protest everything and never ever smiles. He will do what Sarah Palin is doing, having books written, public speaking for big money and appearing on FOX and various talk shows.

Posted by: gthornton2 | January 21, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Justin, you're probably right, but growing numbers of Small Government Republicans, independents, women and Democrats are supporting gay rights and gay marriage while rejecting the legalization of pot, which destroys the minds of our teens.

Posted by: donaldjohnson | January 21, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse
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I don't think any Democrat on earth will vote for Pence, mainly because he's not dynamic enough personally to convert anyone, plus he has a habit of playing the victim and can come off as whiny, although maybe he's not as angry or confrontational as some of his conservative brethren.

I also don't know of anyone who wants to make pot legal for minors (as if any teen anywhere in America has trouble finding it), but I know plenty from all political viewpoints who want to make it legal for adults. I realize that individual freedom is scary for some people, but I've never bought the argument that just because voluntarily doing something that may harm oneself but no one else is stupid, the government should be able to tell you not to do it. That philosophy seems the textbook example of "government intrusion into the private lives and bedrooms of Americans."

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | January 21, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Pence the embarrassing guy who compared an Iraqi market ot an outdoor market in Indiana in summer? Showing off his knowledge of the war zone conditions.
If he runs, it's a vanity run to make his name more recognizable. He doesn't have the chops. He'll be paid handsomely by some big biz lobby once he gets laughed out fo the race.

Posted by: Rivery | January 21, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Mike Pence is a good man with great instincts. The fact that he may not be the guy we need to "out-celebrity" this over-rated empty suit in the White House is a pathetic statement about our nation.

Re-electing this community organizer with his laughable indecision and his spineless foreign poplicy would be a disaster.

There will be at least 2 open Supreme Court seats before 2016.

Posted by: MartinChuzzlewit | January 21, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

It is far, far, far, far too early to start handicapping/speculating/worrying about the 2012 Presidential campaign

Republicans need to prove to their base and to independents that they are not the same Republican party that earned their defeats in 2006 & 2008. This is too crucial a time for rolling back legislation and getting the government out of the way of the private sector economy, to spend any time worrying about 2012. Prove yourselves in 2011, then we'll talk.

Posted by: pilsener | January 21, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

ideological bonafides maybe (and that all that counts on the GOP side, afterall) - but the intellectual chops? Dude's dumber than a stone. Really good at the talking points, but go off-message and there's really, REALLY nothing there.
It really is a shame that someone like this is being forward in a leadership position based soley on ideology.

Posted by: hohandy1 | January 21, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans block comprehensive immigration reform in 2011, Obama will be the default option for two-thirds of the Latinos and the Republican presidential candidate will go down in defeat.

Posted by: mehuwss | January 21, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I think Pence has a decent shot at getting the nomination. He's been around a while and is palatable as an "establishment" Republican. However, he's also appealing to Tea Party types with his inclination towards lower spending.

He has enough gravitas and "looks like" a president. One can say that his coming from the House is an impediment, but Obama was only the 3rd Senator to become president. No reason a House member couldn't do it too I'd say.

How about Pence/Rubio? The Rubio factor would terrify liberals as it could well shift to the Republicans that Latino voting bloc that the Dems have been trying to buy off for the last several years.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 21, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I think Pence has a decent shot at getting the nomination. He's been around a while and is palatable as an "establishment" Republican. However, he's also appealing to Tea Party types with his inclination towards lower spending.

He has enough gravitas and "looks like" a president. One can say that his coming from the House is an impediment, but Obama was only the 3rd Senator to become president. No reason a House member couldn't do it too I'd say.

How about Pence/Rubio? The Rubio factor would terrify liberals as it could well shift to the Republicans that Latino voting bloc that the Dems have been trying to buy off for the last several years.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 21, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Well, if he doesn't run for president (which I don't think he will), then he'll run for governor...not Senator.

The GOP already tried to talk him into running for Bayh's open seat last year. He passed, and he would easily have won.

I personally don't think a primary challenge to Lugar would be successful. I know that the State Treasurer is considering it. But I'm skeptical of his chances.

And I'd love to see freshman Congressman Todd Young from the 9th district take a shot at higher office.

Posted by: ContrarianLibertarian | January 21, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

There are better potential candidates out there -- including one from Indiana, I might add.

American voters don't elect House members to the presidency. If Pence has any future in presidential politics (and I'm less than certain he does), he should run for Governor of Indiana and cut his executive teeth there.

Posted by: ContrarianLibertarian | January 21, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

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