To no one's surprise, Republican Rep. Mike Pence said Thursday morning that he'll run for Indiana governor in 2012, giving the GOP early edge in the race.
The conservative member of Congress and Tea Party favorite, who said earlier this week he's made up his mind about the campaign, made the announcement during conference call with supporters.
Pence's campaign committee let the cat out of the bag Wednesday by sending an e-mail, apparently by accident, that included a "Mike for Indiana" graphic in blue and yellow. While the e-mail did not include any text, it was the latest sign that Pence — who has not run for statewide office before — was set to get into the race.
Pence, 51, has widely been expected to run for governor since ruling out a White House bid and resigning the No. 3 slot in the House Republican leadership after winning a sixth term in November.
The native of Columbus told reporters Monday that he and his family have deliberated and prayed over the issue and came to a final decision Sunday. He originally planned to make his announcement that day, but rescheduled the call after the death of Osama bin Laden.
"My heart's desire is to continue to serve Indiana in some capacity, whether that's in the Congress or as a candidate for governor," Pence said Monday.
Pence often describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order." Pence enters the race with strong name recognition, a network of supporters and campaign cash that could help him clear the field of other Republicans considering a run at the office, such as GOP businessman Jim Wallace of Fishers.
Monica Boyer, an Indiana Tea Party activist invited to attend Thursday's conference call, described herself as a diehard Pence supporter and said she expects the party to coalesce behind him.
"I will put my life on hold to campaign for him," she said. "I believe in him probably more than any politician I've ever met."
Among Democrats, many consider former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg a leading potential candidate. Gregg has said he plans to form an exploratory committee but has not yet made a formal announcement.
U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly has also been mentioned, but he's considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar. Former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh and Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel have both said they will not run.
Current Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels cannot seek a third consecutive term and is expected to make a decision within weeks on whether he'll run for president. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman is not running for governor.