Breathless 2016 discussion time! Chris Christie: goose may be cooked. Marco Rubio: possibly his time? Mike Huckabee: lurking. Bobby Jindal: always lurking. All of them: would wake up on Election Day already in a huge hole to whoever the Democratic nominee is. And all of them have flaws, for sure, from the water break (above) to the BridgeGate to looking like Kenneth the Page and being from Louisiana, etc. So, who’s it gonna be?
It should be noted that at the beginning of February 2006 — so roughly as far from the ’08 election as we are from the ’16 election — Barack Obama had been a U.S. Senator for about a year (his term began in January 2005) and was giving speeches on Darfur and feuding with John McCain (awkward). Even though the 2004 DNC speech had happened by that point, and he was a best-selling author, I’m not sure a ton of people thought he was the 2008 guy as of February 4, 2006 (when Facebook turned two!). Anyway, point is: sometimes you don’t see people coming.
So, all that said … how about Mike Pence 2016?
Some of the potential pros:
Pence, whose background prior to getting into politics was in talk radio, is an underrated communicator and is the sort of person who already has a significant following among the Republican activist base. If you are looking for a dark(ish) horse in the 2016 primary, Pence might be it.
“If he were to run it would not be a Pawlenty-like candidacy but much more in the dark horse mold of the upstart Mike Huckabee from 2008,” says Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “Also, like Huckabee he has many years of experience in talk radio that makes him a communicator of the highest caliber on the stump. He would connect with the grassroots conservative base.”
The end of that passage is good, but I’m not sure the rest of it is.
Pence’s in-state approval rating is about 60 percent (strong), he’s helped bring jobs back to Indiana (strong), he’s been a Congressman and a Governor (strong “two-fer”), he’s well-spoken and attractive (strong), and he appeals to social and fiscal conservatives alike. His wife seems nice and is a school teacher. All the boxes are pretty much checked — he could be like Mitch Daniels, who could have had a shot at 2012, but had (among other issues) that weird divorce and remarriage story.
I guess the broad problems for Pence would be (a) appealing to the kingmakers, (b) being viewed as someone that could reach Hispanic/minority populations as a white guy from the center of America, (c) winning off a state with 11 electoral votes, (d) making sure he travels outside the state to meet said kingmakers and other important fellows, and (e) dealing with kerfluffles over gay marriage.
I don’t necessarily think any GOP 2016 nominee can win the Presidency simply because of (a) shifting demographics and (b) if Hilary goes, it’s pretty much going to be viewed as “her time,” but Pence is an interesting idea. You could make an argument that if McCain had reached down and selected Pence (then a House member) in 2008, his race with Obama would have been closer (Palin hurt him, it’s widely thought). A Pence / Rob Portman-type ticket would be interesting, although it may be a little white and heartland-ish to capture the real needs of the Republican party in a national election.