Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, seen as a rising star among conservatives, announced to his supporters that he will not mount a presidential run in 2012.
Though he stopped short of a formal announcement, Pence strongly suggested that he will instead seek the governorship of Indiana next year.
“In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana,” Pence told supporters in an e-mail message sent Thursday afternoon. “We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.”
Pence gave up his post in the House Republican leadership this year, a move seen as setting the stage for a potential run. He had already made waters-testing visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states that lead off the presidential nominating process.
In September, Pence was the surprise winner of a straw poll of attendees at the Values Voters Summit, a gathering of national conservative activists in Washington.
But the Hoosier State is one of 11 states that holds gubernatorial elections in 2012, and the Republican Governors Assn. has actively pursued Pence. He was the first recruitment call made by the group’s new chairman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Term limits will make incumbent Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels ineligible, and his lieutenant governor has ruled out a run.
Pence hasn’t firmly committed to the race, but his letter signals his interest.
“I have learned to follow my heart, and my heart is in Indiana,” Pence said in his letter. “In the months ahead, as we attend to our duties in Congress, we will also be traveling across the state to listen and learn about how Hoosiers think we might best contribute in the years ahead.”
Indiana may find itself one of the more active political battlegrounds in 2012. GOP Sen. Richard Lugar has vowed to seek reelection, but is already being targeted by some of the same tea-party activists who proved a powerful influence in GOP primaries in 2010.
President Obama hopes to carry the traditionally Republican state, as he did in 2008; Vice President Joe Biden appeared there Wednesday. Daniels is seen as a potential dark horse Republican candidate.