Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, a rising star among House Republicans, has hired two high-profile national campaign operatives, a move that raises his profile for a possible statewide or even nationwide run.
Pence, the House’s third-ranking Republican, hired Kellyanne Conway — a well-known Republican pollster who has worked for Newt Gingrich, Major League Baseball and the National Rifle Association — as a campaign strategist. Bill Neale, an Indianapolis-based attorney who formerly served as Dan Quayle’s treasurer, will take on the role of Pence’s treasure.
Pence has long brushed aside chatter about his national ambitions, even as he has emerged as a leading conservative voice with a major base within the tea party movement. But these types of hiring moves will only feed the speculation that he has national ambitions.
“The congressman, because of his role as chair of House Republican Conference, is having to take to the national scene more,” senior adviser Bill Smith said. “He’s campaigning for members around the country to help Republicans win back to win the House. As a result, we needed to upgrade our political team.”
Pence would seem to have several options on the horizon, including a run for Indiana’s governorship, now held by the wildly popular Republican Mitch Daniels, who is in his second and final term.
The U.S. Senate might also be an option for Pence. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), the state’s senior senator, is 77 and has been in his seat since 1977.
And even though Pence is a star among the tea party movement, talk of a presidential run has been roundly dismissed by Pence’s staff.
A Pence adviser said that there are “no plans other than to truly run for reelection and try to win a majority in the House.”