HOWEY: Pence sees a president in the mirror

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Brian HoweyLast month, we learned that Gov. Mike Pence was in New York attending an Indiana economic development event in Yankee Stadium. Earlier, he had been at a Republican Governors Association conference in New Orleans. A few days later, he was in Maryland to keynote a national confab on school choice.

Governors travel out of state all the time. But this governor will be drawing scrutiny because he is a potential 2016 presidential contender. It was something he flirted with in 2012, opting out to pursue the governorship and get out of the way of Gov. Mitch Daniels, who was also considering a bid.

The difference between the two is that the Daniels family decided not to go forward after a public dalliance, while the Pence family will get on board at the beginning.

In 2012, President Obama was seeking re-election. In 2016, barring tragedy, the White House will be open; the Republican nomination, even more so.

Informed and reliable GOP insiders say a 2016 run is on the table.

Pence has an extraordinarily tight inner circle that includes first lady Karen Pence, Chief of Staff Bill Smith, Chris Crabtree and one of Pence’s brothers. It is within that circle that any national-campaign decision will be made.

Pence will be walking a tightrope on a presidential run. He will have to begin to make forays into Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina beginning in early 2014, when he will be in the midst of a short, non-budgetary General Assembly session. He must prepare to tap into at least $1 billion. Having the Koch brothers, who financed two ad campaigns for the Pence tax-cut package through their Americans For Prosperity PAC, will be helpful.

Other signs of a Pence presidential run will find him raising money in the political financial hubs of New York, Washington, Chicago, South Florida and Texas.

The official gubernatorial schedule denotes travel aspects of his speech in Maryland. What most of us won’t know is where the governor goes before and after, whom he meets with, and what potential IOUs he collects.

There was some speculation during the 2012 campaign that his “home” in McCordsville, when he owned a house in Columbus, was because of its proximity to Indianapolis Regional Airport at Mount Comfort, where he could make quick getaway flights to begin collecting IOUs across the nation.

An active governor running for president has its pitfalls. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindahl has had to cut back his out-of-state schedule because his home polling numbers began falling.

Several influential Republicans told me recently—on deep background—that they would be surprised if Pence doesn’t mount a presidential campaign. Pence is burnishing his “executive cred” with a successful first legislative session where he got a partial income tax cut as part of a $1 billion tax cut package, most of it aimed at wealthier Hoosiers with a repeal of the inheritance tax, and reductions in corporate and financial institution taxes.

He has staked outlier positions on Medicaid expansion and pausing Common Core standard implementation, while potential 2016 rivals such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opt in to those programs.

Thus, Pence could be better positioned with a base that tends to vote in GOP presidential primaries and who loathe anything to do with Obamacare and are skeptical of Common Core.

Yes, Pence is seriously pondering a presidential bid in 2016. And once you look in the mirror and see a president, it can be a hard notion to shake.•


Howey is a third-generation Hoosier journalist who publishes Howey Politics Indiana. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.