It seems to be suddenly popular to write off Mike Pence for 2016, but I'm not ready to do it just yet. So much depends on the Democrats and the time that's left between now and then.
Before this RFRA battle cropped up, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Pence was in a strong position to run for a second term in 2016. Certainly, he would have a challenge on his hands from the Democrats because he had vulnerabilities, but I would have said that he entered that race as the front runner.
Now, right or wrong, Pence has become the man that tried to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers. Of course, that's not quite accurate. While Pence was the national face of Indiana through the controversy, it was really the Indiana General Assembly that wrote the bill and passed it. Pence signed it with perhaps a little more arrogance than normal and then struggled to defend it. His shaky performance in this crisis has left his Presidential aspirations in pieces for now.
Some here in Indiana have even whispered that Pence might want to seek other employment when his first term ends. That's not going to happen.
At the state level, a long Republican bench makes Pence replaceable. There's even some guy named Mitch that could come back. Maybe you have heard of him. He's likely not interested, but he always seems to just be an arm's length away.
Many have also criticized Governor Pence's response to the public health crisis in Southern Indiana. He was slow to put into place a needle exchange program for intravenous drug users and Republican policy changes to Hoosier healthcare funding forced Scott County's Planned Parenthood to shut down in 2011. Even anti-choice Democratic nominee for Governor in 2012, John Gregg, opposed those cuts while Pence supported them.
Pence has also used up pretty much all of his goodwill when it comes to teachers and their allies. Many dyed-in-the-wool Republicans I've talked to say there's no chance that Pence will receive their votes ever again. If that's a statewide trend, that is really an erosion of his base.
Speaking of that base, many of them are upset that he caved on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
That brings us back to the Democrats. So far, John Gregg has yet to announce a second run at the office. While I continue to believe he is the best opportunity to beat Pence, some Democrats want to see someone else step up. That is less and less likely to be Baron Hill. He looks more set on a statewide U.S. Senate run. That leaves possibilities like Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond, Mayor Greg Goodnight of Kokomo, Democratic legislative leaders like Scott Pelath or Tim Lanane, some other legislative leader I haven't named yet or maybe even former Senator Vi Simpson.
Whoever steps up, they should already be out there attacking Pence and the Republicans. Only Gregg is doing that at the moment if you don't count the Democrats in the General Assembly.
By the way, it's my understanding the National Journal has their own opinions on the issue. I didn't read them before writing this post, but you can check out their ideas here.
There's still plenty of time for the SS Pence to right itself, but I honestly have questions about whether or not the Governor is capable of doing it.