Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is leaving the door open on a potential 2016 presidential campaign.
In a conversation Friday with NBC’s Chuck Todd of “The Daily Rundown,” Todd asked if there was a chance voters could see Pence on the ballot for the 2016 presidential race – and Pence didn’t rule it out.
“You know, I haven’t spent one second thinking about anything other than the job that I was hired to do,” Pence said.
But when pressed, he didn’t say he wouldn’t run. As Todd prodded Pence, the governor touted facts about Indiana’s economy without directly addressing his questions.
But Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said it’s unlikely that Pence’s name will crop up as a serious contender for 2016. With only a year into his first term as governor, Sabato said it’s difficult to see Pence giving up the governorship so early to pursue presidential aspirations.
“That’s why I don’t take it seriously,” Sabato said. “I could see him running after two terms as governor. Absolutely. He would be finishing in 2020 and at 6-1/2, 7 years as governor.”
Sabato, who helps create the Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball presidential watch lists, said he hasn’t seen a concrete indication that Pence is ready to make a commitment.
Robert Dion, chair of the political science department at the University of Evansville, said it’s a win-win situation for Pence to dangle the presidential carrot.
“He didn’t slam the door because he doesn’t need to,” Dion said. “He can’t go wrong. This is enormously flattering. If he chooses not to run, he’s still being mentioned as a major presence in the party.”
Dion said the combination of Pence’s unique skill set – he’s comfortable with national media, is a skilled speaker and has experience on Capitol Hill – with current uncertainty within the Republican Party, makes Indiana’s governor a possible GOP champion.
But speculation of Pence’s political ambitions is nothing new, he said.
“He’s setting up very nicely to at least make a strong case for himself,” Dion said. “Whether he ultimately jumps in or not.”
This isn’t the first time in recent years a Hoosier has been under national political scrutiny. Indiana’s former Gov. Mitch Daniels flirted with the presidential spotlight, and rumors he would run on the 2012 ballot – which were already high – soared after his keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington three years ago.
Jessica Wray is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.