Pence for President? Governor not ruling out run for White House
Governor Mike Pence touted his record to a national audience Friday, but refuses to rule out a run for president in 2016.
The governor is attending the National Governors Association winter meetings in Washington D.C. this week. He's making the rounds, but not everyone in Indiana believes his record supports that kind of promotion.
Pence is basking in the national media glow at the meetings.
"Are you ruling out running for president in 2016? Are you comfortable ruling that out?" MSNBC Anchor Chuck Todd asked.
"I am absolutely committed to all that I can to make sure Indiana continues to grow," Pence responded.
That gave Pence the opportunity to tell Indiana's story, but Democratic Minority Leader Scott Pelath painted an alternative picture in his office at the Indiana Statehouse a few minutes later.
"We have the lowest unemployment rate in the Midwest," Pence continued.
"He proposed a continuation of the divisive and unnecessary marriage amendment," Pelath countered at his media event.
"One in every eight jobs created in this country in November were created in Indiana," Pence told the nationwide audience.
"He proposed a change in the business property tax. His party neutered it," Pelath told a handful of reporters.
"So you are not ruling this out?" Todd probed.
"Test scores are up. Graduation rates are up. Indiana is on the move," Pence responded.
"Investment in Indiana's best and brightest and children who need preschool. That is being routed into a study committee in the Senate," Pelath continues.
"You are not ruling it out," Todd asked.
"Staying focused at home," was the governor's response.
"Fair enough, we are not ruling it out," Todd concluded.
I later asked Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully about Pence's record thus far.
"It's not showing that he's leading the state right now. It's showing that the legislature, at least when it comes to his legislative package, is in charge and kind of pushing him around," Tully said.
Tully also says it is wise of Governor Pence not to rule anything out at this point. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has already stubbed his toe and the GOP may need to ultimately look elsewhere, but the process is not secret and not quick.
"Candidates should already be visiting Iowa and New Hampshire if they are serious and trying to make a play for the nomination," said Dr. Caitlin Jewitt, an Assistant Professor of Political Science in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.
Governor Pence is not doing that. So what is he doing?
"Many politicians have what we call progressive ambition. They are always looking to move up. So they are always thinking strategically and taking action in order to achieve their goals," Jewitt said.
Just know this. If he should ever jump into the field for 2016, these will be some of the issues his opponents will most certainly try to exploit.