INDIANAPOLIS — Republican Rep. Mike Pence appears ready to announce he's running for governor of Indiana.
The conservative member of Congress and tea party favorite, who said earlier this week he's made up his mind about the campaign, has scheduled an invitation-only conference call with supporters for Thursday to formally announce whether he'll seek the state's top office next year.
Pence's campaign committee sent an email Wednesday, apparently by accident, that included a "Mike for Indiana" graphic in blue and yellow. While the email did not include any text, it was the latest sign that Pence — who has not run for statewide office before — will get into the race. Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd said the email was intended to contain information related to Thursday's conference call.
Two Indiana Republicans, who asked not to be named because they did not want to pre-empt Pence's announcement, said people close to congressman had sought advice on staffing and other logistical issues related to a statewide campaign. Both said they had the impression Pence would announce he was running for governor on Thursday.
"We're pretty confident, pretty certain he is in," said Monica Boyer, an Indiana tea party activist invited to attend Thursday's conference call.
Pence, 51, has widely been expected to run for governor since ruling out a White House bid and resigning from the No. 3 slot in the House Republican leadership after winning a sixth term in November.
While some panned Pence's campaign on Twitter for Wednesday's email gaffe, it's not likely to make much of a difference because almost everyone assumes Pence is going to run, said William Kubik, a professor of political science at Hanover College. Pence will still be the hands-down favorite, he said.
"He is the leading candidate right now," Kubik said. "He's just so well known. He's popular in the state. And he's one of the best communicators I've ever heard."
The native of Columbus, Ind., told reporters Monday that he and his family have deliberated and prayed over the issue and came to a final decision Sunday. He originally planned to make his announcement Monday, but rescheduled the call after the death of Osama bin Laden.
"My heart's desire is to continue to serve Indiana in some capacity, whether that's in the Congress or as a candidate for governor," Pence said Monday.
In an email sent Wednesday to supporters and obtained by The Associated Press, Pence rescheduled the announcement call for 10 a.m. Thursday.
Pence often describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order." Pence would enter the race with strong name recognition, a network of supporters and campaign cash that could help him clear the field of other Republicans considering a run at the office, such as GOP businessman Jim Wallace of Fishers.
Boyer described herself as a diehard Pence supporter and said she expects the party to coalesce behind him.
"I will put my life on hold to campaign for him," she said. "I believe in him probably more than any politician I've ever met."
Among Democrats, many consider former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg a leading potential candidate. Gregg has said he plans to form an exploratory committee but has not yet made a formal announcement.
U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly has also been mentioned, but he's considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar. Former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh and Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel have both said they will not run.
Current Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels cannot seek a third consecutive term and is expected to make a decision within weeks on whether he'll run for president. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman is not running for governor.