- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One Hoosier could garner increased presidential scrutiny in the next 48 hours. That would be Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a featured speaker at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, which begins this week in Indianapolis. He’ll share the podium with three others who also have that certain, slightly radioactive White House glow about them — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Pence has been on the Republican dark-horse candidate list for at least two years, cited for his cordial ties with conservatives and his respectable appearances on multiple White House straw polls. The insider-talk circuit can be very telling as well. Mr. Pence is the keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Republican Party convention next month, and for the Alabama Republican Party’s shindig in June. Could Iowa and New Hampshire be far behind?

Wait, there’s more. Mr. Pence has followed the promising playbooks of Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perryof Texas, who wisely take care of business at home first, and relentlessly build their resumes by luring business interests to their states from here and abroad. Solid job improvement and revenue numbers follow. Only then do the two governors offer spare but strategic takes on national or global affairs, designed to demonstrate their political prowess and big leader postures.

Indeed, Mr. Pence is following the Walker/Perry template. He returned from a trade mission to Germany only five days ago, and now can boast that 110 German businesses have set up shop in Indiana, employing 12,500 workers. And he also dropped a buzzworthy, aggressive policy bomb before an audience in Berlin, which was quickly picked up the Drudge Report and multiple news organizations.

“I believe we must take immediate steps to strengthen our mutual security by deploying a robust missile defense in all of Europe — including Poland and the Czech Republic — to protect the interests of our NATO allies and the United States in the region. Stronger economic ties and stronger defenses are the right policy for our two countries and the right strategic response to Russian aggression,” Mr. Pence told the appreciative crowd.

Closer to home, Mr. Pence has a date with the NRA, along with the aforementioned Mr. Rubio, Mr. Jindal and Mr. Santorum plus Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. All will speak Friday afternoon at a leadership forum.

The NRA itself offers live online video coverage of the big doings beginning Thursday with a preview event at 2 p.m. Thursday, the day before the official kickoff. Consult NRAnews.com

NRA PROTESTORS AWAIT

The 80,000 expected attendees at the NRA meeting have brought some genuine joy to Indianapolis. City officials estimate the town will make at least $55 million on the massive event, which has been four years in the making.

The local press is friendly, meanwhile. The Indianapolis Star is billing the meeting as “guns, celebs and politics” and offering NRA visitors hints on where to “eat like Ted Nugent” at assorted spots around town. They recommend the local Braunschweiger sandwich, “wild boar Bolognese” and grilled beef hearts with beets, among other things.

Not everyone is happy, though.

The influence of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg will soon surface near the NRA’s meeting site. Mr. Bloomberg’s newly-formed, newly-funded activist group Every Town for Gun Safety is among a triumvirate of organizations planning a rally to protest the event. Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America also play a part.

“The NRA is coming to town for its annual convention,” notes a public advisory for Indiana residents. “When they’re here in Indianapolis, the NRA’s leadership will reaffirm its stance against common-sense laws to reduce gun violence. And they’ll double down on making it easy to put guns in the hands of dangerous people. That’s why moms from across Indiana will rally near the NRA convention.”

The specifics: The groups have organized a “Stroller Jam Rally for Gun Sense” for Saturday, to be staged at the Indiana War Memorial, not far from the convention itself.

JEB SORT OF WANTS TO RUN

“I’m thinking about running for president. Can someone call my mother so she can hear this?”

And so said Jeb Bush at a private event in New York City on Wednesday, according to a Fox News source. But alas. Will anyone care if he runs for the White House, and do they encourage him? Maybe not at this point.

Only 30 percent of Americans say Mr. Bush is qualified to run for president, according to a new YouGov/Economist poll. The most striking findings in the poll, however, were the frequency of “not sure” or “don’t know” responses. People are still undecided about the “GOP establishment” candidate.

“Jeb Bush has extra hurdles to overcome even with members of his own party,” says analyst Kathleen Frankovic, who says the poll reveals that “Bush may not be conservative enough, and many Americans may think that three Bushes are too many: Only 15 percent overall and just one in four Republicans think Bush should run for president.”

FOXIFIED

“I love it. Fox News is like getting on a Southwest Airlines plane. Everyone’s happy, they’re at the top of the heap and they feel like insurgents.”

— George Will, commenting on his new job as Fox News contributor, to Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert. Mr. Will joined Fox News six months ago; he had been appearing with ABC News for 32 years.

KEYS TO THE KEYSTONE

The Keystone XL pipeline appears to be making sense to many people. In fact, support for the major oil conduit that will stretch from Canada to Texas is at its highest level ever according to a Rasmussen Reports survey. Six out of 10 voters now favor the project, 27 percent oppose it.

Another 62 percent believe the pipeline will be good for the U.S. economy, up from 56 percent in January and also a new high. It has some political sway as well: 57 percent of voters say the pipeline is at least somewhat important to how they will vote in midterm elections.

“The Obama administration announced last Friday that it is delaying a decision on building the Keystone pipeline until after the Nebraska Supreme Court rules on a legal challenge,” the survey reports. “Supporters of the Keystone project claim the administration is deliberately postponing the decision until after Election Day.”

POLL DU JOUR

59 percent of Americans worry they won’t have enough money for retirement.

53 percent worry they won’t be able to pay medical costs due to serious illness.

48 percent fear they can’t maintain the standard of living they “enjoy.”

40 percent fear not having money to pay off personal debt.

39 percent fear not having enough money to pay off normal healthcare costs.

36 percent worry they don’t have enough money to pay normal monthly bills.

35 percent fear they can’t pay for the child’s college costs.

31 percent worry they can’t pay mortgage, rent or other housing costs.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1,026 U.S. adults conducted April 3-6 and released Tuesday.

Whoops and hollers to jharper@washingtontimes.com