Conservatives form movement to draft Rep. Mike Pence for president

Two prominent conservatives have joined forces in an attempt to get Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) into the race for president.

A Draft Pence for President movement launched Monday, led by conservative former Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) and Ralph Benko, who served as an adviser to President Reagan.

The pair founded the American President’s Committee, a political action committee dedicated to promoting a Pence presidential bid through the website www.theconservativechampion.org.

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The site labels Pence "the conservative champion" and encourages grassroots conservatives to sign a petition urging Pence to opt for a presidential run in 2012. The Republican is weighing whether to jump into the presidential race or make a run for Indiana governor in 2012.  

The site frames Pence as the best choice to unite Republican primary voters and highlights his strong record in Congress on both fiscal and social issues.

Benko and Ryun are known for their strong social and fiscal conservative credentials, and Pence has been a favorite of that movement.

“Throughout his distinguished career, Mike Pence has demonstrated the ability to enthusiastically advance the cause of conservatives and constitutional, limited government and for that reason I am encouraging him to get in the race,” Ryun said in a release.

“Mike Pence describes himself as ‘first a Christian, then a conservative, then a Republican,’ ” Benko added. “He unifies fiscal, social, and national security conservatives, and will energize the conservative coalition essential to winning back the White House in 2012.”

Benko, in a brief interview, said the American President’s Committee has raised $70,000 so far for the draft Pence initiative.

Pence has said he'll make a decision on 2012 by the end of the month. His office said reiterated in a statement Monday.

“Congressman Pence is humbled by the encouragement he has received across Indiana and the country to seek higher office.  He will continue to prayerfully consider counsel and intends to announce a decision about his future by the end of the month,” a spokesman said.

Over the last several years, political observers have had kept a close eye on Pence and his rise in the House GOP ranks. His decision to give up his leadership position as chairman of the Republican conference after Republicans won back the majority in November renewed speculation that he is positioning himself for a 2012 run for governor or for president.

Pence previously served as the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House Republicans. He has consistently voted for tax cuts and anti-abortion measures such the Partial Birth Abortion ban and against federal funding for elective abortions, as well as federal subsidies for stem cell research. On immigration issues, he has been a strong opponent of granting immediate citizenship to illegal immigrants, instead supporting a guest-work program, increased border security and strict enforcement of laws against hiring illegal immigrants.

Other conservatives have publicly urged Pence to run for the Republican nomination in 2012 recently, including RedState's Erick Erickson, who wrote that Pence is the best choice to unite the party's grassroots.  

With former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman (R) out of the race for governor in Pence's home state, most political observers expect him to jump into that race.

—This post was last updated at 2:01 p.m.