Indiana Gov. Pence's Koch Advantage

August 28, 2014

If Mike Pence decides to run for president, he could enter the race with a big advantage from a very important place: Koch World.

The Indiana governor is getting a closer look as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, and there’s a growing sense among GOP operatives that he has a leg up over other contenders when it comes to winning the favor of the political network fronted by the billionaire conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch.

A number of Pence’s former staffers from his days in Congress have assumed major roles in the brothers’ corporate and political spheres. And Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ top political group, has been holding up Pence’s work in Indiana as emblematic of a conservative reform agenda they’re trying to take nationwide.

Pence will have an opportunity to make an impression Friday, when he addresses a national summit of Americans for Prosperity activists in Dallas. The AFP event runs through Saturday and will also feature appearances by GOP potential White House hopefuls Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Pence, whose office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, has had preliminary discussions about exploring a presidential run. But his moves towards a campaign have been cautious relative to other prospective candidates who are further along in their preparations, and who are courting the Kochs’ deep-pocketed political operation ahead of an election in which billions will be spent trying to influence the outcome.

An alignment between the Kochs and Pence could be of great benefit to both headed into 2016. It dovetails with a concerted move by the Kochs’ allies to mold the brothers’ political vision into a strategy intended to win elections and policy debates, rather than merely wage quixotic campaigns at the margins of wonky debates.

Pence may just be among the best — or, at least, the more electable — messengers for this new Koch brand in a field of prospective candidates who fit some portions of the brothers’ political bent but not others.

For Pence, Koch World offers entrée and credibility with major donors whose views on social issues skew less conservative than his own, and who don’t know him as well as they know some of the other potential hopefuls. It would be a huge psychic boost if he were perceived to have even unofficial support from a vast network of advocacy groups and companies that spent more than $400 million in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election and is among the most robust forces in politics today.

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