GOP Eyes Indiana’s Pence as Presidential Contender

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INDIANAPOLIS -- When it comes to choosing a Republican nominee for president in 2016, the laundry list is just getting longer. One name that has gained some traction, however, is Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

He brings experience from both Washington and the state level, but is he interested?

When you meet him, he's all-American heartland: from a cornfield to Congress and now governor.

"I don't ever remember even imagining that this grandson of an Irish immigrant would ever have this chance to lead my state as governor," Pence told CBN News from the State Capitol in Indianapolis.

Blueprint for Success?

He's making the most of this opportunity, with an approval rating over 60 percent and presiding over one of the top economies in the nation.

The numbers show a conservative blueprint for success: seven straight months of job growth with unemployment under 6 percent and a state that leads the nation in new manufacturing jobs. Plus, throw in tax cuts and a budget surplus for good measure.

Pence said the formula is simple.

"There's no rocket science to it," he told CBN News. "We're just putting into practice those common sense principles of living within our means, letting people keep more of what they earn."

The Republican Party is taking notice. Some influential GOP members are courting Pence, and the governor is listening.

They see him as an ideal presidential candidate: a pro-life Christian, strong on social issues, a hawk on defense, and economically conservative.

Now, he's taking his platform to the international stage and will speak at national GOP functions, stoking presidential interest even further.

"Anytime that I'm mentioned for the highest office in the land is a humbling and encouraging thing for me and my family but our focus is on Indiana," Pence told CBN News.

He's also keenly aware that the best solutions need to come from outside the beltway

"I'm absolutely convinced that the cure for what ails this country is going to come more from our nation's state capitols than it ever will from our nation's capital," he said. "There are just things that states will always be able to do better."

Obamacare

Gov. Pence has his hands full proving that. One challenge is President Barack Obama's national healthcare law.

"I think Obamacare needs to be repealed - lock, stock and barrel," he said.

Pence said he won't take available federal money to expand Medicaid here unless it's done the Indiana way.

"We're not interested in expanding traditional Medicaid," Pence said.

"But if we could, in effect, end traditional Medicaid in Indiana for virtually all of our citizens and replace it with the kind of consumer-driven healthcare enshrined in the, 'Healthy Indiana Plan,' than we would be open to that," he added.

Some conservatives criticize Pence for even considering taking the federal money.

For instance, the Federalist website is extremely critical of him, saying, "There is really nothing all that conservative about the state-specific plans to capture federal dollars earmarked for Medicaid expansion."

The reality, however, is that the "Healthy Indiana Plan" is popular with Hoosiers because it sets up personal health savings accounts.

In speeches at the American Enterprise Institute, Pence touts it as a national model.

"In a word, Indiana has proven in the last six years that consumer-driven health care works," he said.

Common Core

The other big issue Pence is battling at the state level plate has to do with education and Common Core. 

Pence drew up praise for making Indiana the first state to opt out of the controversial national curriculum, but critics complain his new standards look a lot like Common Core.

Influential conservative pundit Michelle Malkin said that "Pence's attempt to mollify critics by rebranding and repackaging shoddy Common Core standards is fooling no one."

The governor has a different view.

"Whatever differences people might have on the standards we've produced, there's no doubt these were written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers. And the debate now is happening here in the state of Indiana where it belongs," he told CBN News.

One item not up for debate is his faith. In his office, a worn Bible sits on his desk getting good use.

"Just about each and every day I like to start out my day with a little bit of time in the Book, a little bit of time in prayer, and that's become even more important to me as I've shouldered the responsibilities of this office," he shared.

Pence gave his life to Jesus as a college freshman and now as governor he's mindful of Solomon's prayer in 1 Kings 3 where it says, "Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?"

Pence said he takes that prayer seriously.

"It's a prayer I pray often for a discerning heart, to distinguish between right or wrong for as He asked, 'Who is able to govern this great people of yours,'" he said.

In Indiana, it's Gov. Pence for such a time as this.

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David Brody

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.