Hours after the news broke on Wednesday night that Republican Sen. Mike Braun would run for governor of Indiana in 2024, speculation began about which of his fellow Republicans would run for his open Senate seat.
On Thursday, however, talk began about the Hoosier Republican whom another possible Senate contender said: "He'd clear the field if he ran": Mike Pence.
The former vice president and governor and U.S. representative from Indiana has taken initial steps toward a bid for the Republican presidential nomination and had recently signed on a communications director.
But sources close to Pence noted to Newsmax that the sudden decision by Braun changes the calculus for Pence and offers him a race that is winnable — which can't be said at this time of the presidential nomination.
"Mike is a very long shot with Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and others running," said one Indiana GOP officeholder who requested anonymity. "But if he ran for the Senate, he'd clear the field and probably win with ease in November."
Pence and his inner circle have not yet ruled out a Senate run. A source close to Pence told us that he had a conversation with a GOP member of Indiana's U.S. House delegation last month about the possibility of Braun relinquishing his seat.
Other Republicans mentioned for the open seat include Rep. Jim Banks, who narrowly lost a bid for House Republican Whip last month, and Rep. Victoria Spartz, known as the lone member of Congress born in Ukraine.
Another much-discussed possible GOP candidate is State Attorney General Todd Rokita, a former congressman who lost a three-way Senate primary to Braun in 2018.
Rokita, Banks, and Spartz are considered stalwart conservatives. The lone Democrat mentioned is the state's last Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly. But Donnelly became President Biden's ambassador to the Holy See earlier this year, and it is thought highly unlikely he would resign the post to seek his old job.
Pence's love for Congress is well-known. After two unsuccessful bids for the House, he finally won his seat in 2000. Well liked by fellow conservatives and more moderate Republicans, Pence moved to become chairman of the House Republican Conference and the speakership seemed the next step in his career.
But in 2012, he stunned even his own staff by announced he was leaving the House to run for governor. When Speaker John Boehner unexpectedly resigned three years later and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan assumed the gavel, more than a few Republican lawmakers said that there would have been a "Speaker Pence" had he stayed in Congress.
Former vice presidents returning to the Senate are not unique. Democrats Alben Barkley in 1954 and Hubert Humphrey in 1970 both were elected to the Senate — both two years after serving as vice president.
In 2002, former Vice President Walter Mondale became the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota after the death of incumbent Paul Wellstone but lost in November to Republican Norm Coleman.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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