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April 13, 2014

HOWEY: Mike Pence for president? Stay tuned

Mike Pence for president?

The swirl of 2016 national ticket talk surrounding Gov. Pence intensified over the past few weeks. I sat down with the governor in his office on Tuesday to find out what he’s really thinking. A few hours prior, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol had anointed Pence and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as presidential timber. Twenty-four hours later, his Chief of Staff Bill Smith resigned to set up his own political consulting group with Pence as his first client. And four hours after our chat, Gov. Pence received the “Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform Award” from the National Tax Foundation, which always looks good on a Republican presidential resume.

The most obvious path, though it involves lightning-strike statistical odds, is that a Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz wins the nomination and needs a social conservative with gubernatorial and Midwestern credentials to balance a ticket.

The second potential scenario is the kind of void that created Bill Clinton in 1992 and John McCain in 2008. That’s when the biggest names – the Cuomos, Rockefellers, Bushes, Bradleys or Kennedys – don’t run. Right now, all eyes are on Jeb Bush.

I posed two questions to Pence: Do you believe you’re ready for a national ticket? And under what scenario might that come about?”

“Well, what I can tell you is I really haven’t spent any time thinking about any other job than serving the people of Indiana as governor,” Pence said in his Statehouse office, foiling this writer’s attempt to move him beyond the well-worn talking point.

Then Pence made it interesting.

“But we’ve had people talking about that with us,” the governor said. “With regard to the other aspects to your question, I would just say, our decision on making any kind of decision on reelection will come sometime in the next calendar year.”

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