One key politician in Indiana has revealed his plans for the 2016 election, while another continues to dodge the question.
Democrat Evan Bayh announced that he would not run for governor in two years.
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Mike Pence said he would… well… actually, he didn’t say anything about his plans for 2016. He hasn’t formally said he’d seek a second term as governor. And when asked directly about running for president, Pence responded by saying he had a good time during his visit recently to Iowa.
But for now, back to Bayh, who served two terms as governor before winning two terms representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate.
Bayh – one of the state’s most popular politicians – would have had the best shot by far of recapturing the governor’s office for Democrats. It was Bayh who in 1988 ended 20 years of Republican control of the office when he defeated then Lt. Gov. John Mutz.
Bayh served eight years and then his lieutenant governor – the late Frank O’Bannon – won two terms. But since then, it’s been Republicans in control of the state’s top office. And Democrats have had it.
The problem, as Bayh points out, is that Republicans control the Indiana House and Senate. That makes it particularly difficult for a Democratic governor to get much done – especially a popular Democratic governor, especially one that had substantial success in his first go-round.
That’s why I think it was always a long shot that Bayh would run for governor again. He was just 32 years old when he won his first term and he finished on an incredible high. The state had a record cash surplus, he had worked with GOP lawmakers to cut taxes, and he had created some popular programs, including 21st Century Scholars, which helps pay college tuition for lower-income students. He left with such a strong approval rating that he swept into the U.S. Senate easily two years later.
The chance that a second stint as governor could go so well is unlikely. And whether that’s why Bayh decided to forgo a bid or not, it’s probably the best way to preserve his political legacy.
Pence, on the other hand, still seems intent on building his legacy – but the direction he wants to go remains uncertain. There seem to be two possibilities at the moment: Pence either is running for president or he wants people to believe he’s considering a run for president.
Media across the country are writing about Pence and whether he’ll seek the GOP nomination in 2016. Consider that Pence spoke recently at the Defending the American Dream Summit in Dallas. Then he spent some time in Iowa – where presidential campaigns begin – speaking at a trade conference and then campaigning for that state’s governor. And he’s been dropping comments about foreign policy wherever he can. These are the types of things a candidate does when he’s weighing a presidential bid.
But Pence won’t even really admit he’s thinking about running for president. Not really. As close as he’s come is a comment in The Washington Post earlier this year, when he said, “In the last few months, people have reached out. I’m listening.”
But last week, when asked point blank whether his talk about going to Iowa was a sign that he is indeed running for president, Pence dodged the question. He said – again – that there’s no greater honor than serving as Indiana governor and that Hoosiers should know he’s focused on that job.
Maybe. But if Pence really wants Hoosiers to know where his focus is, he could just answer the question.
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.