Given several opportunities to deny interest in a presidential run in 2016, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Fox News Sunday deliberately declined to do so. Moreover, he gave a solid performance and managed to get out his main qualifications:
CHRIS WALLACE: You spoke at the NRA’s annual leadership conference … which is being held in Indianapolis this weekend. You also recently signed a law that would allow guns in locked vehicles in school parking lots. The Indianapolis school superintendent had this to say about that law, “Young people, schools, guns, and all of that is a mix for something inappropriate.” Question, governor, do we really need guns closer to schools?
PENCE: Well, let me say, Chris, I have strongly supported the right to keep and bear arms. I truly believe that firearms in the hands of law abiding citizens makes our families and our communities more safe, not less safe. And the bill that we just signed here in Indiana really was a common sense reform. We actually have parents that had a permit to conceal and carry a weapon that were finding themselves guilty of a felony just by dropping their kids off to school. So we just — we made a modest change, a common sense change in Indiana law. And I strongly supported it.
WALLACE: Let me talk about another law that it was recently passed in Georgia, which is being called the guns everywhere law. That would allow guns in bars, in churches, and even in the non-secure parts of the airports. Question, is that a good idea?
PENCE: You know, I haven’t looked at that legislation and so I would hesitate to comment on it. But I want to say again, you know, we welcome the National Rifle Association here to Indianapolis. It’s tens of thousands of freedom loving Americans. I was grateful to be able to speak to them and interact with them and I really do believe that the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms makes our communities more safe, not less safe. And that’s being celebrated here in Indianapolis today. And for however long I serve in public life, Chris, I’ll stand on that basic liberty of the right to keep and bear arms.
WALLACE: . . . . So far, you have cut taxes dramatically. You presided over Indiana as the first state to fall out of the common core national education standards. You pushed a big increase in private school vouchers and you signed a law to spend as much as $400 million on new highway projects. Question, is there a common theme there, governor? Is there a governing philosophy in everything you’ve been trying to do?
PENCE: Well, I really think there is. It’s why we say Indiana is a state that works, Chris. I mean we’re demonstrating that you can balance budgets, have strong reserves and nearly $2 billion in the bank. You can still invest in infrastructure and roads and bridges. You can invest in education, innovation and expanded educational opportunity. And the results speak for themselves. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the Midwest. We have one of the fastest growing labor forces in the country, and our state is prospering even during these uncertain times because for some time here in Indiana, we’ve been just putting common sense principles into practice, living within our means, letting people keep more of what they earn, promoting economic freedom like the right to work. And that’s why you’re seeing increased investment in Indiana, more jobs in Indiana, and I’m awful proud of the progress that people of Indiana have made.
WALLACE: Instead of expanding Medicaid as was allowed under ObamaCare, you got a waiver from the federal government to continue the Healthy Indiana Plan, which requires participants, these people who didn’t qualify for Medicaid in the past, but would now. So they’re over the poverty line to pay into the system before they start getting benefits. What is the idea behind that, sir?
PENCE: Well, this is an idea we developed about five years ago in Indiana. It’s along the principles of consumer-driven health care. You know, when people take greater ownership of their own health care and are encouraged to do that in a health plan, their health gets better. They pursue more wellness opportunities. We get them from emergency room care to primary care and also it bends the cost curve over the long term. And as we move forward, I was pleased to be able to renew that program a year ago with a waiver. And we’re currently working with the administration to see if we might be able to build on the principles of health savings accounts and consumer driven health care here in the state of Indiana. We really think health savings accounts were kind of invented in Indiana. Ninety-five percent of my state employees have health saving accounts. We have the Healthy Indiana Plan. We think it’s an idea whose time has come and we think consumer-driven health care rather than government-driven health care or government-mandated health care is the real future of health care in America. . . .
WALLACE: Why is the governor of Indiana [during a recent trip to Germany] talking about missile defense and not to get too deeply into it, but how do you think setting up a missile defense in the Czech Republic or Poland is going to stop Putin who is not involved with missiles, but is talking about sending tanks and airplanes over the border or at least threatening to send those over the border into eastern Ukraine? How does missile defense help?
PENCE: Well, first, I was in Germany promoting the state of Indiana. We have more than 12,000 Hoosiers that are employed by German companies. And more to come. And Hoosiers have had a long-standing interest in issues affecting the nation at home and abroad. And I’m no different than that. But when I was there, I thought it was important to speak about what I believe would be the right response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. I’m pleased to hear there is more sanctions maybe coming tomorrow. But the truth of the matter is I think we need less talk and more deeds. And by passing and moving rapidly to pass the Transatlantic Trade [and Investment] Partnership and frankly by deploying a robust missile shield throughout Europe including in Poland and the Czech Republic that was off lined in 2009 by this administration, I think would send a very strong message to Putin and to Russia that NATO countries and the United States are going to respond by growing stronger economically and strategically. And I believe … that’s going to have a lot more influence in the long haul than more sanctions and more talk. However meritorious those are, at the end of the day, I think I’ve always believed in Ronald Reagan’s adage, “Peace through Strength.” Let’s grow stronger on a transatlantic basis in our economies. Let’s allow Poland and the Czech Republic to have that missile shield that they were entitled to by joining NATO. I think that’s the right strategic response to Russian aggression.
That sure sounds like a guy thinking about running for president. But why Pence –aren’t there enough Midwestern governors contemplating a run? To be candid, there are a lot of unknown quantities, and no one knows at this point whether any of them can move to the national stage, be credible on foreign policy and weather rigors of a presidential race. No one has broken out of the pack — either from that group or from the Senate. And with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) all question marks, Republicans may wonder if there is really a Republican with enough gravitas to go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton.
Pence has some things other candidates may lack. He appeals to establishment Republicans and grassroots activists. He’s somewhat of a throwback to what Ronald Reagan called the three stools of modern Republicanism — social, military and economic conservatism. He also spans a couple generations. Older voters will remember him from Congress; newer voters will see him as the can-do governor of a diverse state. (Being somewhat out of the limelight has its pluses; voters aren’t already sick of him.) As a foreign policy hawk he would be running after Russian aggression has blown away the isolationists’ arguments. No, economic integration and diplomacy aren’t sufficient in a dangerous world; American power, soft and hard, must be used to defend our interests. That in turn requires a well-funded military and steely-eyed commander in chief.
Strongly pro-life, he would face few questions about his bona fides — and offer social conservatives, who are wary about the GOP becoming too libertarian and nervous about other candidates’ pro-Israel credentials, a standard bearer.
That’s the argument at any rate. Now he has to decide whether to jump in.