Gov. Mike Pence headed to New York City on Monday for what he said was a two-day state economic development trip, but his itinerary, which may bring him face-to-face with prominent Republican donors, is fueling more speculation that he is considering running for president in two years.
Pence was scheduled to attend a meeting of conservative journalists, leaders and potential donors on Monday night that was organized by the Franklin Center for Public Integrity. Tuesday morning he was slated to speak with Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial board and other outlets.
Pence's spokeswoman, Kara Brooks, said his primary purpose is to attend an annual reception hosted by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. at Yankee Stadium to lure businesses to the state. She said he is not scheduled to meet any donors, but may see some at "The New York Meeting".
Brooks noted that Pence attended the same IEDC business reception in New York last year.
"This is the second year that Gov. Pence has traveled to New York to meet with business executives who are interested in locating or expanding their businesses in Indiana," Brooks said.
Indiana Democrats pounced on Pence for going on the trip, calling it evidence that he is more interested in running for the White House than running Indiana, and they launched a blog to keep track of the governor's out-of-state travel. Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said Pence should focus on more pressing problems in Indiana.
The trip comes as some key pieces are falling into place for Pence, should he enter the 2016 presidential race. Pence's longtime confidant, Bill Smith, recently left work as Pence's chief of staff to start a political consulting firm, which will keep Pence as a client. Pence has said he is listening to anyone who asks him to run for the White House, but is focused on his current job as governor.
Pence built a solid reputation among conservatives nationally while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was courted by many tea partyers and social conservatives to run for president in 2012, but he ran for governor instead.
He relied in part on New York money when he won the governor's office in 2012. Pence visited with real estate tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump in 2011 and collected more than $300,000 from New York donors.