Former Conservative Congressman Starts Committee to ‘Draft Pence for President’

January 17, 2011 - 10:58 AM

9-12 rally, mike pence

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., speaks to people gathered at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010 for a "Remember in November" rally to express opposition to government spending. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) - A grassroots movement launched Monday is pushing Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) to run for president in 2012.

America’s President Committee, led by former Congressman Jim Ryun (R-Kan.), launched its online effort at TheConservativeChampion.org.

Pence is a favorite among some conservatives, winning the straw poll at the Family Research Council’s Values Voters summit – an annual gathering of social conservatives – last September.

Pence, formerly the third ranking Republican in the House GOP caucus, announced his resignation from that leadership position on Nov. 3, 2010, the day after the midterm election. At the time, he said that he had “begun to look to the future” and decided he would not be able to fulfill his leadership duties over the next two years. (See earlier story)

The move sparked rumors that Pence, after winning the Values Voters straw poll, was mulling a White House bid. But Pence hinted that he would rather run for the Indiana governor’s office.

The draft-Pence movement hopes to change the congressman’s mind by demonstrating that he has the support he’d need for a serious 2012 presidential run.

“America’s President Committee [APC] today kicks off a national grassroots signature drive urging conservatives and tea party members to sign a declaration encouraging Mr. Pence to run for President,” the group said in an early-Monday news release.

“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,” said Ryun.

Ralph Benko, a former Reagan administration deputy counsel who helps Ryun run the APC, said that Pence’s ability to unite the three traditional areas of conservatism – fiscal, foreign policy, and social – make him an ideal candidate for the nation’s newly energized conservatives.

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

Benko told CNSNews.com on Monday that the rise of Internet fundraising and organizing, coupled with the emergence of the tea party activists, gives Pence a “ready” base in Benko’s eyes. 

Benko believes Pence could easily rally the Tea Party, which provided the GOP with the needed muscle to take back the House of Representatives and make considerable gains in the Senate during the 2010 congressional elections. 

“You need people and you need money, and both of them are just out there waiting for an extraordinary person to unite behind,” Benko told CNSNews.com. “He [Pence] is a true constitutionalist, which is at the core of the DNA of us tea partiers. 

Benko also mentioned Pence's "unique track record of having fought his own party’s top leadership on the bailouts and TARP and entitlements expansion. This is a big deal for [the tea party] – the fact that he didn’t just talk about it, the fact that he actually did it under fire – is just a very big deal,” Benko added. 

Benko also said that Pence’s open commitment to socially conservative values would resonate with tea party members: “He has demonstrable integrity both in his word and his deed – that is really extraordinary,” Benko said. “I think people are looking for integrity, and Mike Pence’s integrity is so vivid that once you focus on it, I think that’s going to move a lot of people.”

APC’s inaugural effort is an online petition drive urging Pence to run for the White House.