PENDLETON, Ind. (AP) — A day after saying he wouldn't run for president, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence started what he said would be months of traveling the state to talk to voters about whether to run for governor next year.
Pence, a former radio talk show host and one of the more outspoken conservatives in Congress, repeated Friday that he hasn't made up his mind about a gubernatorial bid. But his travel plans could soon give him the appearance of having started a statewide campaign.
Pence is already slated to speak at several county Republican dinners outside his eastern Indiana congressional district. He also said he expects to attend many more GOP events and meet with people outside the political sphere before making his decision about trying to replace Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who can't seek a third term.
"I just believe there's wisdom in multiple counselors and at the end of the day, this moment is not about me," he said before a town hall meeting in Pendleton. "It's really about the people of Indiana. We're going to take an attitude of humility and a servant's attitude into our discussions with Hoosiers and we'll see where they think we can best serve in the years ahead."
The 51-year-old congressman's future has been the subject of speculation since he resigned in November from the No. 3 GOP House leadership slot after an easy re-election to the seat he first won in 2000. Many social conservatives had wanted Pence to run for president, and he finished first in a straw poll at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington last September.
Many leading Republicans predicted Pence would be the only prominent candidate to seek their party's nomination for governor in a race that so far includes no well-known Democrats.
Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker said Friday he was confident his party would have a strong candidate with strong Indiana roots to contrast Pence's prominence in Washington.
Parker described Pence as a partisan ideologue who wouldn't fit well with Indiana voters who he said typically favor centrist candidates.
"The one thing most Hoosiers would say they don't want in Indianapolis at the Statehouse is Washington politics," Parker said. "He's used to the Washington game of lay blame and be partisan. He's going to have a hard time making the transition I believe."
It might be May or later before Pence would formally jump into the governor's race since state law prohibits political fundraising by statewide candidates until after the Legislature's session ends in late April. Daniels has asked candidates to hold off on politicking until then.
Pence will have to introduce himself to many Indiana voters since he's never run for an office other than Congress — and most of those campaigns have been low-key affairs with little TV advertising against token opponents.
Republican Sen. Richard Lugar's staff released a poll done in October that showed 69 percent of Indiana voters were aware of Pence, with 37 percent having a favorable impression of him and 16 percent negative. The poll of 800 registered likely voters had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Richard Prather, a retired auto worker from Anderson, said after the Pendleton town hall that he believed Pence's reputation as a federal spending hawk would serve him well running for the governor's office.
"I think he would have been a good candidate for president, but I'm glad he didn't," Prather said. "In the next race, he can run for president."