An Indiana congressman with just five terms in public office, Pence is currently the subject of a draft movement — but he may well pick a gubernatorial run over a White House bid.
Nevertheless, a group of longtime Republicans — including former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and former Rep. Jim Ryun — are working with a well-connected conservative public relations firm to urge the congressman to head to Des Moines and Manchester instead of Indianapolis and Muncie.
Their efforts have intensified in recent days as Pence’s own self-imposed end-of-January deadline for a decision grows near.
For all the praise they heap on the congressman — and his fans tend to be effusive — it’s also plain that what makes him so compelling is the perception that he lacks the flaws of the other candidates currently in the presidential mix.
The pro-Pence crowd consists of a group of traditional conservatives who, while sympathizing with her, don’t view Sarah Palin as a serious presidential candidate. They doubt Mike Huckabee will run again or can broaden his appeal. And they believe the rest of the field features has-beens or candidates insufficiently pure on cultural issues.
For them, the Hoosier checks many boxes — a fresh face on the national scene, a charismatic speaker from the heartland, and, most important, a Republican who can appeal to all three elements of the party base: social conservatives, economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives.
“He’s the complete package,” enthused Ralph Benko, a veteran Republican consultant who is leading an organization aimed at pushing Pence to run.
But what these conservatives like about Pence says as much about the other GOP presidential prospects as it does about the congressman.
“There’s a void out there,” said Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman who now runs the Club for Growth. “And I think that Pence is a guy who could potentially fill that void. Who else is an across-the-board conservative who’s really good on the stump and has a record that is unimpeachable in terms of standing up for conservative principles? He’s the only guy.”
Chocola added of his fiscal conservative organization: “There isn’t anybody that clearly excites our membership. If he would get in the race our membership would get excited about that.”