Sunday, December 5, 2010

GOP prospect could steal Palin's thunder

At The Detroit News:

If Mike Pence keeps talking, the left will soon have to stop talking about Sarah Palin.
Pence is the Indiana congressman who is weighing a run for the presidency in 2012. He stopped by Birmingham last week to speak to the Detroit Economic Club. It wasn't all that far into his speech before you realized that this guy has a message that could catch on, particularly if voters remain in their current mood.

"To restore American exceptionalism, we must end all this Keynesian spending and get back to the practice of free market economics," Pence told the audience. "The freedom to succeed must include the freedom to fail. The free market is what made America's economy the greatest in the world, and we cannot falter in our willingness to defend it."

For most of the rest of the speech, Pence laid out a blueprint for restoring the economy that focused on simplifying the tax code; adopting sound monetary policy, perhaps even a return to the gold standard; developing homegrown energy sources; reforming regulations to make them friendlier to job creators; and committing fully to free trade.

"You should someday be able to file a tax return of 140 characters or less," Pence joked. "You could Twitter your taxes."It's a message tailor made for the tea party movement, particularly on tax policy. Pence would replace all federal taxes with a single, flat income tax in the range of 17 percent, and get the government away from using taxes to manipulate behavior.

But Pence is not a tea party maverick. He has worked within the system very effectively since first being elected to Congress
in 2000.

He's thoughtful, respected by his colleagues for his intelligence and depth, and affable. "I'm a conservative, but I'm not angry about it," he once told an interviewer.

A speech he gave to Hillsdale College that was reprinted in the school's Imprimus magazine on how the office of the presidency has been distorted from the Founders' vision is burning up the Internet.

Liberal mouthpieces are desperate for Palin to emerge as the leading GOP presidential candidate, and try to pretend that the former Alaskan governor and vice presidential hopeful is the way-out-front candidate.

Pence and other rising GOP stars — including his fellow Hoosier, Gov. Mitch Daniels — are forcing them to take notice. His speech at the Townsend Hotel was covered by CNN, Fox and other national outlets.

Pence makes the pitch for returning America to its founding principles seem entirely reasonable, and quite doable. Nothing about him appears out of the mainstream.

He channels Ronald Reagan as well as anyone in the GOP stable, deftly comparing the "new normal" ideology of 2010 to the national malaise of the Jimmy Carter years. Like Reagan, he rejects the notion of lost American greatness.

Here's how he closed his speech:"I choose a boundless American future built on the timeless ideals of the American people. I believe the American people are ready for this choice and await men and women who will lead us back to that future, back to the West, back to American exceptionalism."

Mike Pence is no Sarah Palin. And that should worry the daylights out of the left.

Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The Detroit News. His column runs on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at

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