Less than two weeks before Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., is expected to make an announcement about his political future, conservative leaders are urging him to jump into the 2012 presidential race.
Within the last week, at least two draft Mike Pence groups have sprung up, including an effort spearheaded by former Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., and former Reagan administration official Ralph Benko.
"Seize this moment, Mike," Ryun, along with conservative leaders L. Brent Bozell, Dick Armey and Morton Blackwell, wrote in a letter they sent to Pence on Thursday. "Now is the time for you, as one of this generation's leaders, to take your rightful place in the pantheon of American leadership, to cast aside personal considerations, and defend this God-blessed nation that has given us, and the world, so much."
Pence has said he is considering whether or not to pursue a presidential run and that he plans to make a decision by the end of January. But political observers in Washington and in Pence's home state have speculated that he could end up skipping the presidential contest and run for governor of Indiana instead.
In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, Pence landed fairly low on the list of potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates favored by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Just 2 percent of them said he was their choice. By comparison, 21 percent favored Mike Huckabee, 19 percent backed Sarah Palin and 17 percent preferred Mitt Romney -- an indication of the uphill climb Pence may face even among the Republican primary electorate.
The political forces behind the push to influence Pence's decision represent a who's who of the conservative movement. Bozell is president of the Media Research Center, a right-leaning media watchdog group. Armey, a former Texas congressman, is now chairman of the Tea Party-affiliated group, FreedomWorks. And Blackwell is a long-time Republican activist and serves as a Republican national committeeman from Virginia.
In their letter, they praised Pence's decade of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, calling him a leader who has "stood firm on principle, no matter the pressure to compromise, and has demonstrated true commitment to comprehensive conservatism."
"We believe that you, Mike Pence, must answer your country's call," they wrote.
The letter sought to bolster an effort launched earlier this week by a new independent expenditure group, the America's President Committee, which is gathering signatures to encourage Pence to enter the Republican presidential primary. On Monday, the group unveiled a website, theconservativechampion.org.
"Mike Pence extraordinarily exemplifies the optimistic, pro-growth, pro-job creation Reagan-Kemp wing of the GOP," Benko said in a statement, noting that the Indiana congressman is exactly what "grassroots conservatives, Republicans, the Tea Party and populists are looking for."
If Pence decides to enter the race before the end of the month, he would almost certainly become the first well-known candidate to do so. Many other potential 2012 contenders, including Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, have indicated they plan to wait until the spring -- or even later -- to announce presidential bids.
"I certainly know where I'm leaning, but I haven't made any decision," Pence told reporters in Indiana on Monday -- the same day he delivered speeches to both chambers of the Indiana state legislature.