Could Mike Pence be the Republicans’ man for 2012?

Politico is suggesting that, with the Republican field so wide open, many conservatives are urging former talk radio host and Indiana congressman Mike Pence to abandon his expected run for governor in 2012 and set his sights on the White House:

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 PR 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.

Pence does seem like a compelling candidate. He’s obviously oozing with charisma, and he clearly pushes all the right buttons for the Republican base, as his win in the Values Voters straw poll back in September 2010 showed – yet he doesn’t have the negatives that Sarah Palin does. On top of that, he’s seen as something of an ‘ideas man’ within the GOP. He’d be an excellent candidate, and someone of whom President Obama should be afraid, because he’ll bring conservatives to the polls without turning off moderates. But can a sitting member of the House win in 2012? The last (and only) time a candidate was elected directly from the House of Representatives was when James A. Garfield beat Winfield Scott Hancock in 1880.

This time, though, with such a flawed field of candidates, Mike Pence might have a decent shot. With the economy gradually picking up, however, and President Obama’s approval rate now back over 50%, Pence might be better-advised to duck the uncertain outcome of a 2012 race and run for the governorship of his state instead. He can then use the Indiana governor’s mansion as a launching pad for a 2016 bid against Joe Biden – and he’ll have an impressive field of 2010 Senate freshmen to choose from for the VP spot, including Marco Rubio, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey.


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