I haven’t updated my sidebar poll to reflect this, but last night Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana announced he would sit out the 2012 Presidential race. In a letter to supporters (and reposted at the Indianapolis Star website) Pence announced:
In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana. We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
The “we” he is apparently referring to is his wife and family, but the decision by Pence will certainly dampen the spirits of at least a few people who were backing him on various Facebook groups and other conservative activists.
But in the long run, the decision makes sense. In our nation’s history, only three men have ran as a major candidate for President as a sitting member in the House, and just one succeeded (President James A. Garfield in 1880.) The last was Rep. John Anderson of Illinois in 1980, and he drew single-digit support as a breakaway Republican in President Reagan’s win. (By the way, Anderson ran as a centrist so you can see how well squishy moderates do against conservatives.) Aside from Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, who had both ran for President on previous occasions, neither of the other 2008 candidates who ran as House members (Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo) lasted long in the process.
On the other hand, running from a Governor’s seat has launched the national political career of four of our last six Presidents – Barack Obama and George H.W. Bush are exceptions. Since Pence is only 51, he has plenty of time to learn to govern on an executive level and could benefit from his predecessor (and current Indiana governor) Mitch Daniels.
So it’s not a complete surprise that Pence sits this one out, although I’m disappointed that my vote in the poll (yes, I’m the lone Pence vote at the moment) is thrown away. But the field for the 2012 Republican nomination needs to begin to form and who’s taking a pass is just as important as who decides to jump in.