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Local politics

Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette
Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, says he is humbled by a group’s effort to persuade him to run for president.

Pence is mum on his future

Admirers begin draft for presidential run

– Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, isn’t ready to say whether will run for president in 2012.

But some of his supporters are volunteering their opinions.

A draft-Pence campaign was announced Monday independent of the prospective candidate.

The America’s President Committee is led by Ralph Benko, who was deputy counsel to President Ronald Reagan, and former Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan.

“The first I’ve heard of this effort was this morning. We are obviously deeply humbled by the encouragement we’ve received,” Pence said in an interview after his town-hall meeting in New Castle on Monday afternoon.

Pence said he knows Benko and Ryun but that, as he had earlier told the roughly 100 people at Monday’s gathering, he will announce his political intentions by the end of January.

A fiscal and social conservative, Pence, 51, also is considered a possible – and likely leading – candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in 2012.

“A servant asks, ‘Where am I needed most?’ ” Pence said to the crowd in a conference room at Henry County Hospital. “What does it mean to my family, and where am I needed most?”

A few constituents gave their views after the meeting asked whether they think Pence should run for president, governor or another term in Congress.

“It sounds like he has a servant’s heart; I’d love to see him as president,” said Curt Ferrell, 49, of New Castle.

“I’d definitely like to see him go bigger and better if he wants to,” said Cindy Brooks, 42, of Spiceland.

“I’d be proud to call him any of the above,” said state Rep. Thomas Saunders, R-Lewisville. “He can go any direction he wants.

“People wanted change last time and got it (with President Obama). I feel they (now) want someone they relate to,” Saunders said.

First elected to the east-central Indiana congressional district in 2000, Pence has raised his profile a number of times in recent years – when he was elected chairman of the the House conservative caucus in 2005, when he ran for House minority leader in 2006 and when he won election as House Republican Conference chairman in 2008 to become the third-ranking Republican in the chamber. He left that post after the GOP won control of the chamber in the Nov. 2 election.

Pence won a straw poll in September as the preferred 2012 presidential candidate of the Value Voters Summit. In a ballot of more than 700 delegates, Pence led, in order, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is another possible candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.

The America’s President Committee’s Benko said Pence “extraordinarily exemplifies the optimistic, pro-growth, pro-job creation Reagan-Kemp wing of the GOP,” according to The Associated Press.

The late Jack Kemp was a congressman and vice presidential candidate.