Mike Pence wants to follow in the footsteps of fellow Republican Mitch Daniels as Indiana governor. And although the 2012 election is 17 months away, there are already signs that Pence's campaign is using the two-term success of Daniels as a blueprint.
Bumper stickers and campaign placards that once might have said "Mitch" or "My Man Mitch" have yielded to "Mike," although there is no word on the possibility of "My Man Mike" (unless George W. Bush thinks about saying the same thing about Pence that he did about Daniels).
Pence would only smile at the notion of copycat campaigning.
"Well, I don't know if we'll run a Winnebago," he said, alluding to RV-1, the Daniels vehicle of choice on his initial campaign swings through the 92 Hoosier counties. "And I actually prefer horses to a motorcycle, but we're going to be out and about and going to the four corners of Indiana."
That began in earnest Saturday morning with the first official stop of the Pence-for-governor campaign coming in Greencastle at the Putnam Inn. The day would later find Pence visiting Danville and finishing up with an Armed Forces Blue Star event in Indianapolis.
Like Daniels before him, Pence is already talking about Hoosier values and what a great place Indiana is to grow a business or a family.
Saturday's Greencastle appearance featured a tie-less Pence in blue jeans and short-sleeve blue Indiana Pork shirt. He might as well have been dressed by Cheri Daniels.
"I think Mitch Daniels is the best governor in the United States," Pence praised when he finally had a chance for a cup of coffee and a short one-on-one interview in the far northwest corner of Putnam Inn.
"But I also think we can build an even better Indiana, and that means going to the next level by taking the reforms that have been put in place and building on top of them. People who know me know that I fight for what I believe in, and I believe in Indiana."
Gov. Daniels, Pence said, has taken Indiana "from poor to good," but there is no reason, Pence said, that Indiana cannot be great.
To do that, Pence said, he embraces a positive vision of Indiana's future enhanced by good jobs, great schools, safe streets and strong families.
All of those factors are guided by his core values. "I pledge I will stand for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of traditional marriage and organized religion," the 6th District U.S. congressman from Columbus said.
And like Daniels, Pence has eschewed a run at the presidency, though admittedly dreaming about the possibility. Ultimately, he stayed true to one of his own campaign canons: "We need to say 'Yes' to Indiana and 'No' to Washington, D.C."
But how close was he to saying yes to Washington and no to Indiana?
"Never very close," he said. "At the end of the day, it wasn't a close decision at all. It's all about what is in your heart that counts, and my heart is in Indiana."
Yet being mentioned as a possible 2012 candidate for a position considered the leader of the free world was undoubtedly inspiring.
"It's beyond flattering, almost humbling," Pence said, "to have at least a small number of people take note of the work we've done for conservative values in Washington, D.C."