Pence gaining heavyweight support for 2016 presidential bid

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Mike Pence has spent more than a decade courting the deep-pocketed, small-government cadre that has come to dominate Republican politics: The Koch brothers, the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation.

He turned their heads by opposing President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education bill in 2001; captured their imagination by leading a revolt against the expansion of Medicare into prescription drug coverage in 2003; and won their loyalty with a 2004 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference that took the GOP to task for “veering off course” into “big-government Republicanism.”

Now, Pence is in his second year as governor of Indiana, and some of the very same Republicans who once thought of the former radio talk-show host as their voice on the U.S. House floor want him in the 2016 Republican presidential contest.

“I have no doubt that he would make a great president,” said Steven Chancellor, the CEO of Evansville-based American Patriot Group, the parent of a company that makes ready-to-eat rations for the Pentagon. “He certainly distinguished himself in the House” and is “off to a great start as governor.”

White knight or dark horse, Republicans are searching for a candidate who can unite the party’s pro-business establishment with its small-government activists, particularly now that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bridge scandal has left a void in the presidential field. Pence’s allies say the temperate-toned executive has a record that pleases the staunchest defense hawks, anti-tax groups and abortion-rights opponents.

Bridging divide

Pence is “extremely well thought of on the conservative side and has a lot of support from the mainstream, as well,” said Chancellor, who has encouraged Pence to run “in subtle ways,” even though he also likes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Dakota Sen. John Thune as prospective candidates.

Part of the challenge for Pence, 54, is that he would have to distinguish himself from a bumper crop of Republican governors with longer records who are also potential candidates. They include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Bush.

Grover Norquist, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, said Pence has to answer this question after just slightly more than a year running Indiana: “How do I compete with people who have done a whole bunch?”

And even though he’s a favorite of some of the wealthiest Republican donors, many of those contributors have also given to other potential Republican hopefuls.

Fundraising prowess

Pence said last week that he’s listening to those who want him to run for president, and his campaign reports show he can raise enough money to compete.

When he ran for governor, billionaire industrialist David H. Koch poured $200,000 into the campaign, according to Indiana campaign finance records. Angie’s List co-founder Bill Oesterle of Indianapolis kicked in $100,000, and Waltham, Mass.-based buyout specialist J.W. Childs added $50,000 to Pence’s coffers.

“We’ve had people talking about that with us,” Pence told the newsletter Howey Politics Indiana of a possible presidential bid. “Our decision on making any kind of decision on re-election will come sometime in the next calendar year.”

Until recently, Pence had been unwilling to entertain the possibility of a 2016 run, content instead to wait for the 2020 election cycle.

Open field

After lowering his national profile during his gubernatorial campaign and his first year in office, Pence is emerging anew.

He spoke at the Washington-based Club for Growth’s annual conference in Florida in February and, during a trade visit to Europe this week, he is expected to criticize President Barack Obama for failing to counter the annexation of Crimea by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Five years ago, Pence scolded Obama for revising President George W. Bush’s missile defense plan in Eastern Europe because Russia opposed it.

“The first nine months of the Obama administration have emboldened rogue dictators across the globe, and now an increasingly antagonistic Russia has been rewarded for bullying and threatening its neighbors,” Pence said at the time.

Education policy

Pence has won praise from small-government conservatives for taking action in Indiana to back away from Common Core education standards supported by another potential Republican candidate, Florida’s Bush. The Washington-based Heritage Foundation, in a Facebook posting, applauded him for rejecting Common Core.

His allies say Pence has developed bonds with the major constituencies within the Republican Party—the small- government crowd, anti-abortion rights groups, and defense hawks—without alienating business-oriented voters. His lifetime rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest corporate trade group, was 89 percent in 2012, according to Montana-based Project Vote Smart.

In Washington, he served first as chairman of the Republican Study Committee in the House, now home to many tea-party aligned lawmakers, and later won the post of Republican Conference Chairman, the third-ranking leadership position when the party was in the minority.

Potential donors

It’s the names on Pence’s donor list that show he has the potential to mount a serious bid for the Republican nomination. The roster includes Koch-aligned political contributors such as Childs; Fred Klipsch, the chairman of Klipsch Lanham Investments in Indianapolis; Philadelphia-based philanthropist John Templeton Jr.; and Ridgefield, Conn.-based Northern Tier Energy Chairman Paul Foster.

Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax group underwritten by Koch and his brother Charles—the fifth and sixth wealthiest people in the world, according to data compiled by Bloomberg—opened up an Indiana chapter.

The group ran ads supporting Pence’s election and then his policies once he became governor, getting results.

In one ad aired in early last year, AFP criticized the Republican-controlled Indiana state House for releasing a budget that ignored Pence’s proposal to cut the state’s 3.4-percent state income tax by 10 percent—to 3.06 percent.

The ads helped pressure state GOP lawmakers, who ultimately met Pence in the middle and phased in a 5-percent cut to the tax. With a few state-level policy victories under his belt, Pence’s return to the national political debate will test his ability to stand out in a full field of Republicans.

“The question is what is he ready to show when that spotlight shines on him,” Norquist said.


  • Impeach him
    This foot is destroying Indiana.Do we really want him to ruin the country. He should be IMPEACHED
  • Experience doesn;t count
    If it's experience that matters then we wouldn't have Barack Obama now. He won because he could speak very well and he was a black democrat. It was time for a black president. Too bad someone of substance didn't run. Obama had NO experience of any significance. He voted present so no one could pin him down on the issues and now he is running us straight into economic ruin. Just as his puppet masters intended for he is merely window dressing. And you fools bought it like a shiny Christmas present.
  • No chance
    Pence is NOT presidential material. Does he ever smile. He's got the personality of a rock. He's flat, mean-spirited and out of touch with most Hoosiers. He's constantly undercutting programs that would benefit some of most vulnerable citizens. Pence isn't the governor of all of the people - just a small percentage does he represent.....
  • Won't happen
    Pence is no Mitch Daniels, but he's ok as governor. He would have almost zero chance in a presidential election.
  • How about we nominate someone smart for a change
    It's a radical concept I know, and they'd probably be unelectable. Pence is a very narrow minded thinker and his ideology is inconsistent. He wants small government that doesn't interfere with our lives, unless you're gay of course, if which case we want to dictate how you live yours. This would be probably be at least as bad as our current situation, where in a time of great fiscal strain,with a tremendous need for cogent economic thought, we elected a 10th grade math dropout who has never done anything in his life, educationally or vocationally, that required any kind of quantitative analysis. Little surprise that Obama's economic policy has evolved no further than stimulus money, and no surprise that growth is still subpar and employment weak after 6 years of clueless leadership.
  • Pence Is Not Viable
    Thinking that Pence could win a national election tells us just how out of touch some people are. Money can't buy experience or offset the tea party agenda that Pence embraces. He is a light weight when it comes to executive experience and getting legislation passed when a legislature isn't all Republican. He accomplished little as a US Congressman. The mantra of "lower taxes" can only carry him so far (and I think he has reached that point).
  • Get in Line
    It would be just another white guy with an ego and not much else in the race.
  • rare republican
    I first met Mike Pence when he was doing his private sector job hosting a radio news show. He was interviewing folks who opposed legislation supported by the then Republican Governor and big government finance interests in both parties. He was genuinely fair and balanced, and unwilling to become a blind partisan loyalist. He seems to have remained that way in Congress and now as Governor. He seems to genuinely believe in a limited role for government, which is saying something given that Indiana Republicans, due to the party's long influence (some would say dominance)in the State, seem to love government "solutions" as much as any progressive Democrat. Many Republican leaders are as dependant on government as any welfare recipient or union teacher. Ultimately, my libertarian streak tends towards Rand Paul, and I do not share Gov. Pence's views on "values" or religious issues. That said, I would gladly support his run for POTUS simply because he appears to understand that often government is the problem, not the solution to our nation's problems. As one out-of-State, small contributor to a future Pence campaign, the fact that folks of great means and influence would contribute also is largely irrelevant to me. Otherwise, an interesting article, thanks IBJ.
  • Hillary!!!
    Pence running for president as the republican would mean Hillary Clinton will be our next president. I'm so excited about the thought!
  • Mr. Excitement? Really?
    The IBJ is a little too full of itself. Nominating a candidate from a small, insignificant state like Indiana is suicide, and Pence has all the charisma of a wet sock. He looks like an inbred Hoosier, and that may play well in Kokomo and Terre Haute, but it doesn't play nearly so well in America. I used to be a Republican, but I figured out the party doesn't share my conservative values, so I'ma gonna vote for a real conservative, even if he or she has to run on a 3rd party ticket. You people who continue to vote for these failures might ask yourself why your party keeps nominating candidates that assure the Dems of victory. I figured it out long ago.
    It will be so fun to watch this guy fail! Really looking good for the Democrats if the Republicans are seriously considering this dope for a presidential bid. Hilarious. I can vote Green Party without worrying about handing the election to the republicans.....
  • Ha!
    As if! Hahahahahaha, this is a joke right?
  • LOL
    Should be fun watching him go down in flames. Glad he's not my governor anymore.
  • Wow
    So much nastiness. I think he'd be a very good president.
  • Oh please run for President...
    With only getting 48% of the vote in 2012, he is well on his way to becoming the next Barry Goldwater! The only reason he wanted to be governor was because no Republican has been elected to the Presidency that hasn't had executive or senatoral experience. He needed "Governor" added to his career politician resume. I hope he runs so that I can delight in his defeat...I honestly doubt he makes it out of the primary if he throws his hat in the ring.
  • Presidential bid??
    He's demonstrated so far in his gubernatorial stint that he is not interested in taking action on anything that doesn't increase his visibility. The landfill fight in Madison County which has raged for 25+ years won't rate a site visit but he wants to 'run' the country? We've had enough failure over the last 6 years in that office.
  • Coming depression?
    Someone's drinking a bit too much of the Limbaugh kool-aid...
  • Wow!
    Such negative comments about our Governor. I guess YOU don't like him. I hope he runs. I will vote for him. He is fiscally responsible. We need to SHUT DOWN several government departments since they are redundant and wasteful. Anyone will be better than Obama, who has demonstrably done NOTHING prior to becoming President. Sure, he ran for Senate and won. In Illinois, my birth state but one of the most corrupt states in America. And failing fast. Now Obama is sliding America into a deep morass of debt and irresponsibility. Hillary would be worse. I can't imagine we will elect ANY Democrat in 2016. The situation we are in will get much worse before it gets better. Just keep spewing your vitriolic anti right comments and you will feel better. But vote Republican if you want to survive the coming depression.
  • Dear Jim (and, Rowdy)
    While I admit that I have never run for political office, that does not automatically disqualify me from considering the facts, such as they are. I have been an attorney and an executive for many years, have worked with the Federal Government (yes, the Real government of this land) and I feel (perhaps, boastfully?) that I at least have a voice in our so-called democracy (or, republican/theorcracy). If Mr. Pence chooses to run for President, that is his prerogative. However, let's quickly examine his exemplary career in sucking up to the government teat: not ONE of his proposals while in the House of Representatives EVER made it beyond the floor. OK, in my terms, and in the terms of my long distant schooling, that makes him a total LOSER!!! Which is exactly what he will be if and when he runs for the 2016 Presidential nomination. If he's lucky, he MIGHT make vice-president, which is every bit as scary...
  • Please Don't
    Couple thoughts....Please don't run. I would prefer that the rest of the nation not know how backwards our state really is, truly from the top down. Also, as a long time republican, although I am softening in my advancing age, I think a republican presidential nominee should be able to carry his or her home state and I don't think that is likely. Do yourself a favor Governor Pence and spare yourself the humiliation. You have no chance. And donors, save your money and put it towards something worthwhile.
  • Deja Vu
    So these rich guys pour millions into an already rich Romney campaign and he loses to a weak incumbent whom any centrist Republican could have beaten (of course, no centrist Republican had any chance of being nominated). And now they are floating the exact same kind of candidates for 2016...these candidates who supposedly can unite the small government tea partiers and religious zealots with the business bloc are the same guys who literally can't get votes from any one else...minorities, women, and even a lot of people who used to consider themselves Republicans...by the time he passes muster with those groups, the only people who will vote for Pence (or his ilk) are a bunch of old scared white dudes...didn't work last time, won't work this time, landslide for Hillary or whoever the Democratic nominee is. Might as well spend your money rigging the election instead. I noticed no one here has been shy about criticizing Mr. Pence's actual record...goes to show you that some people do pay attention to those things. One of the best political strategies today is to actually do as little as possible in office, so that nothing bad sticks to you...certainly Mr. Pence has mastered that skill...
  • Grasp?
    Pence's grasp of economics is, "Shut it Down". He will never get the node with his television statement and apparent belief (tea Party) that shutting down government is leadership.
  • Boobs
    For the record, I am NOT a huge fan of Pence, but at least he possesses common sense and a basic grasp of economics, unlike our current president.
    • A real job?
      Chip-apparently "community organizer" and full time politician who has never had a real job or met a payroll in his life (that would be Obama) is OK with you, but Pence is somehow not qualified? At least Pence understands you cannot spend more than you take in year after year.
    • Pray!
      Heaven help the U.S. if Pence should become president. No steps forward and 10 steps backward. We would become a third world country instead of just a third world state with no direction toward future progress.
    • Let's get this party started!
      I will very much enjoy seeing Pence get torn a new one on a national stage. Some people can take the pressure and the questioning and the worms but I doubt Mikey is one of them.
    • Not a fan
      I love these comments. I was thinking about what a boob he is, but someone beat me to the punch.
    • Small government?
      Pence has an admirable record of supporting small government, unless it involves highways or bombs.
    • HAHA
      Pence is a Joke, but if he runs for president he might resign as governor of Indiana. That will be a bonus for us. AND no one in their right mind would vote for this boob for president, so the country is safe
    • LOLz
      Talk about an electoral college landslide for the Democrats if Pence is the Republican nominee.
    • Yes Please
      Yes, please run. Then we can talk about your Congressional and gubernatorial records,ya know, where you did NOTHING. Nada. Zip. Ineffective and useless this guy is. So yes, please run against Hillary. And, btw, this guy is the epitome of a welfare queen. Being a public servant was NEVER MEANT TO BE A CAREER. How about you get a real job...in the private sector. Then see where doing nothing day in and day out gets ya.

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