Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard is encouraging Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) to challenge Sen. Evan Bayh in 2010. On the publication’s blog, Kristol notes Pence’s statement on the health care bill, and suggests he is an “obvious challenger” who “could make the race competitive.” Against the popular Bayh, that would be a big deal to the GOP.
Kristol has a good point, and at first glance it would be great if Pence challenged Bayh. He would, as Kristol notes, make it competitive, and this would be a major pickup nationally for Republicans. However, I’m also thinking about Pence and what’s best for his long term impact. Does this make sense? You tell me.
Although…Kristol outlines the potential personal rewards for Pence if he were to run and be successful:
“An articulate, conservative first-term Senator who had knocked off a “safe” Democrat in a state Obama carried in 2008—that would be something…for Pence, for the GOP, and for conservatives nationwide.”
I have not talked with anybody from Indiana about this, although obviously at some point along the way you would have to think that Pence’s camp would have considered this. Does the current national atmosphere and Bayh’s vote to nationalize health care now make him more likely to jump in?
The more attractive statewide race might seem to be the governorship in 2012. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, will be term-limited out at that point so it will be an open seat.
Serving as governor as opposed to senator is often a naturally more attractive proposition for a public servant – it’s kind of like being the big fish in a small pond as opposed to a small fish in a big pond. Plus, presidential candidates typically benefit from gubernatorial experience: it gives you a chance to demonstrate executive leadership, while avoiding accumulation of a lengthy vote trail to criticize during an election.
That being said, Pence does seem to be a natural legislator, enjoy taking on national issues, influencing the direction of the Republican Party, and a successful Senate run would allow him to step up earlier than the 2012 gubernatorial race. But it’s also not as if you still can’t stay relevant nationally as governor of a state – after all, look at Daniels.
Like I said, there are a number of factors at play here, and I don’t pretend to have any special insight on any of this.