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Associated Press
Rep. Mike Pence is surrounded by supporters Saturday after announcing his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor of Indiana.

Pence to have ‘low-key’ campaign for rest of ’11

Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, says he is a team player when it comes to political campaigns. But he’s not saying whom he wants on his side when he runs for governor in 2012.

Republican candidates for statewide offices typically campaign as a group, and in recent decades they always looked for a coattail effect from Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., whenever his name has been on the ballot.

Usually a shoo-in for re-election, Lugar next year squares off against his first GOP primary challenger – state Treasurer Richard Mourdock – since 1976.

Mourdock has been endorsed by many county, state and national Republican leaders who claim Lugar’s voting record isn’t conservative enough.

“I’m staying neutral in the primary,” Pence, among the more conservative congressmen, said in a recent interview. “I know Richard Mourdock and Richard Lugar very well. I admire them both. I consider both of them to be personal friends. We’ll let them sort out that primary, let voters decide.”

Will the GOP candidates campaign as a team in the fall regardless of who wins the Senate primary?

“I have every confidence that, should I have the privilege of being the Republican nominee for governor, we’ll do everything in our power to pull the whole Republican team together and make our case to the people of Indiana,” Pence said.

Mourdock tried to block Chrysler’s bankruptcy reorganization, and Pence voted against the 2009 federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors. Lugar voted in favor of the aid.

Democrats have been celebrating the companies’ resurgence and their payment of federal loans – and the party is sure to make those comebacks an election issue next year.

“We’re all glad to see our domestic auto manufacturers getting back on their feet,” Pence said. “I still think most Hoosiers also know that we can’t borrow and bail our way back to a growing economy.

“Decisions were made, and people took the positions that they took,” he said. “If (Democrats) want to run on bailouts, that would be fair. I opposed the Wall Street bailout, I opposed the auto bailout, I opposed the president (George W. Bush) of my own party when he asked for $700 billion to bail out firms on Wall Street. I’d be more than happy to have a debate over those issues.”

But Pence intends to stay focused on the primary and securing the party’s nomination.

“We’ll do everything we need to do to take our case to Republican primary voters,” he said.

For the rest of 2011, Pence described his approach as low-key.

“I’m especially hoping to make it to a lot of county fairs this summer,” Pence said. “I’m a bit of a county fair fan. I just think it’s a great venue to be out meeting folks in a casual place.

“Obviously the tempo of the campaign will be much greater in 2012 than it is this year,” he said. “But we’re going to continue to travel every chance we get around the state.”