Pence won't run for president in 2012

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) will not make a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, telling supporters in a letter that he would rather serve the state of Indiana.

"In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana," Pence wrote, according to the Indianapolis Star. "We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012."

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Still, Pence is not officially jumping into the race for Indiana governor just yet. 

The congressman said he expects to make a decision "later this year" about his next step, but made clear that his "calling is closer to home."

With former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) passing on a race for governor and Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman (R) also opting not to run, speculation increased in recent weeks that Pence would pass on a presidential bid and seek the governorship in 2012. 

Pence's announcement still leaves open the option that he could remain in Congress, but GOP insiders in Indiana say that's unlikely given that he has at least nine speaking engagements at GOP county dinners across the state on his schedule in the coming months. Pence also stepped down as House GOP conference chairman in November.

Pence will begin traversing the state tomorrow, holding a town-hall forum Friday morning, according to the Star.

The Republican's decision to pass on the presidential race comes despite prominent conservatives upping their efforts in recent weeks to urge a Pence bid. Former Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) and Reagan administration official Ralph Benko formed a Draft Pence movement earlier this month.

It also leaves one less prominent social conservative in the potential Republican primary field. Along with Pence, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are among the rumored hopefuls that would be angling for the support of social-conservative voters in a GOP primary contest. 

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