Being governor is great.

Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Goodbye, Mike Pence

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Winnowing works! Republican Governor Mike Pence is going to run for re-election in Indiana in 2016, forgoing a presidential run. Pence (last year at least) was a candidate for the GOP nomination. 

Pence joins Ohio Senator Rob Portman, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and former Ambassador John Bolton on the list of Republican dropouts. 

With those three out, only nine viable candidates remain: a top tier of Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush; a second tier of Mike Huckabee and John Kasich; and a third tier including Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Chris Christie.

This is still a large field. My list of viables doesn’t include Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham. Nor am I counting Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina, who haven’t held elective office, or the three Bateson class candidates, (very) former Governors George Pataki, Bob Ehrlich and Jim Gilmore. So the overall number of candidates is now 17. Hey, that’s down from 19 in January and up to 26 back in November!

The winnowing will continue before the field gets to Iowa, and probably before the end of summer, both among plausible nominees and the others. The problem of an overcrowded debate stage could solve itself before the party has to fix it. 

One note on Pence. We don't know why he dropped out.  It could be he did worse in the invisible primary than other candidates, hearing mostly discouraging words about his prospects. Or he might have heard relatively encouraging things, but balked at the opportunity cost. Pence, unlike most of the field, would have had to give up his current position if he ran in 2016. 

But beyond that, he might have less tolerance for the ordeals of a national campaign than his rivals. It’s even possible that he’s just less interested in the job than some others. Ambition is a tricky thing, and not all politicians react equally to similar incentives.

  1. I’m not counting Representative Paul Ryan, who didn't do anything presidential candidates do to get ready, or House Republicans who have sort of talked about running but aren’t doing much, or those other than Carson and Fiorina who haven’t previously held office. Plenty of stragglers “run” for president every four years, even enter the New Hampshire primary, but they don’t rise to the level of “real” candidates.

  2. It doesn't seem to be a result of the fuss over Indiana's "religious freedom" law. Well before that fuss, reports had him likely to run for re-election as governor. On the other hand, had the episode produced a polling surge in his favor, perhaps he might have reconsidered.

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To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net