WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, who has been considering a possible bid for the White House, announced Wednesday that he's stepping down from the House GOP leadership team.
The Indiana Republican, who has made multiple trips to states that host early presidential primary contests, alluded to a potential presidential bid in a statement he issued to his colleagues announcing he will step down as GOP conference chairman.
Pence was recruited for the leadership post two years ago by Speaker-to-be John Boehner, R-Ohio. Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota immediately announced bids for the post, and others, such as Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, are weighing the idea.
Pence said he's considering "new opportunities to serve Indiana and our nation in the years ahead," adding: "I have come to realize that it may not be possible to complete an entire term as conference chairman. As such, I think it would be more appropriate for me to step aside now."
Some have inferred that his statement also opens the door for a possible 2012 run for Indiana governor when term-limited Mitch Daniels leaves office, although Pence's office declines to confirm that.
The conference chair position is the No. 3 GOP leadership slot but would become the No. 4 GOP post when Republicans take over in January.
Pence is a darling of social conservatives, strongly in favor of tax cuts and a streamlined federal government and strongly opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
"We must never compromise on our commitment to end this era of runaway federal spending, borrowing, bailouts, deficits and debt," Pence said. "We must never shrink from our stand for a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, and traditional moral values."
In September, Pence won a presidential straw poll at a "values voter" summit in Washington. He's made political trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, all of which host critical early presidential contests.
The six-term lawmaker is a former talk radio host who lists President Ronald Reagan as his hero.
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