Many of my Republican colleagues have opined with near certainty that Mike Pence only has his sights on the Indiana Statehouse.
I doubt they're so sure now.
WRTV-6's political vet, Norm Cox, is on to something when he noticed that Pence is scheduled to speak at the Detroit Economic Club (DEC).
Why is a DEC speech significant?
Let's talk first about some political realities.
There is a perception that Americans don't trust folk too desperate to be president. This is why politicians say things like "I'm flattered by the groundswell of grassroots support" or in Pence's case, "We've been very humbled by the encouragement we've received back in Indiana and around the country."
But more importantly, no politician wants to announce a presidential exploratory committee to have it disastrously collapse for want of traction. A respectable showing and early exit in the presidential jockeying is survivable, but in a vocation where perception is reality, getting embarrassed can be a body blow, even if the goal is to elevate your profile immediately for another position (say Governor of a Midwestern state) with an eye toward a later Whitehouse run.
So what is a presidential aspirant to do?
Easy. Try to build a coalition of support while not letting anyone claim you're trying to build a coalition of support. It helps to think of politicians who run for president as your uncle who brings the guitar to the Christmas party and then guffaws, "Oh, I guess if you all want me to play a song or two, I can!" Somehow it seems less self-indulgent if they can claim they're only doing it because they're fulfilling the wishes of others.
So, let's say you're Mike Pence, the darling of social conservatives, and one knock on you is that you'll get crushed in a general election because you'll put waging a cultural war above curing America's current economic strife. What would you do?
Easy again. You'd find a prized podium like the Detroit Economic Club's (every president since Nixon has stood behind it) that captures the fancy of the CEO class, and you deliver a major address setting forth your "vision" for "economic growth, prosperity, and job creation with a plan focused on a renewal of the free market, smaller government, tax relief and reform, spending restraint, increased trade and more."
Sure, these are just the poll-tested, Tea Party/GOP talking points, but why spend time talking national economic policy if all you want is a little old governor's office?
The beauty of the DEC location is that, by staying in the industrial Midwest, Pence can say he's just talking common issues with Indiana's neighbor to the North. It's not like he's making a trip to New Hampshire. Yet.
Make no mistake, folks, Mike Pence has the train chugging along now, and if the DEC address fuels his speed by virtue of national buzz, he can always throw the track switch at the last minute toward Whitehouseville and away from Governortown.