The GOP continues its search for a Republican presidential contender who can appeal to all segments of the party, slice and dice Democrats’ domestic and foreign policy failures, and bring a record of executive prowess and foreign policy toughness to the White House. Polls suggest that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remains in the top tier of candidates, but this week we saw evidence of a promising dark horse, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation, Monday, March 24, 2014 at the Indiana Career Council Meeting at the Indiana State Library. Indiana is the first state to withdraw from the Common Core reading and math standards that were adopted by most states around the country. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Rob Goebel) Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation on March 24 at the Indiana Career Council Meeting at the Indiana State Library. (Associated Press Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Rob Goebel)

Bloomberg reports:

Pence has won praise from small-government conservatives for taking action in Indiana to back away from Common Core education standards supported by another potential Republican candidate, Florida’s [Jeb] Bush. The Washington-based Heritage Foundation, in a Facebook posting, applauded him for rejecting Common Core.

His allies say Pence has developed bonds with the major constituencies within the Republican Party — the small-government crowd, anti-abortion rights groups, and defense hawks — without alienating business-oriented voters. His lifetime rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest corporate trade group, was 89 percent in 2012, according to Montana-based Project Vote Smart.

In Washington, he served first as chairman of the Republican Study Committee in the House, now home to many tea-party aligned lawmakers, and later won the post of Republican Conference Chairman, the third-ranking leadership position when the party was in the minority.

In contrast to Sen. Rand Paul (R -Ky.), Pence has a pro-national security record dating from his time as a congressman on the House Armed Services Committee. Most impressive, his trip last week to Germany showed a grasp of the economic benefits and national security necessity of American leadership in the world. In a muscular speech he declared:

International trade is vital to our mutual prosperity and leads to good paying jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Europe and America should work together to strengthen our economic ties by adopting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Passage of TTIP will enhance and expand our economic partnerships and diplomatic ties, and I am committed to its passage. I was proud to join a group of 15 American governors in December 2013 to encourage its passage, and I ask each of you for your support as we move this agreement forward for both our countries.

Safeguarding freedom and security has been central to the mission of NATO and the prosperity of the West for more than half a century. With continued instability in the Middle East, and Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, I believe we must take immediate steps to strengthen our mutual security by deploying a robust missile defense in all of Europe – including Poland and the Czech Republic – to protect the interests of our NATO allies and the United States in the region.

Stronger economic ties and stronger defenses are the right policy for our two countries and the right strategic response to Russian aggression.

He has been an adept fundraiser and is now saying he would be open to a 2016 run. If he shows, as he did last week, the ability to project executive maturity and foreign policy leadership, he will be a formidable contender. For demonstrating the sort of well-rounded and sober conservatism missing from many GOP contenders, we can say, well done, Gov. Pence.