2016 Watch: Mike Pence To Speak At RJC Summit In April

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Mike Pence will address the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual Spring Leadership Meeting in April, a move certain to fuel speculation that the first term Indiana governor is seriously considering a 2016 presidential run.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks first announced in an email to The Daily Caller that Pence and House Speaker John Boehner will be among the featured speakers at the summit, which will take place April 24-26 in Las Vegas.

“We are excited to announce that Speaker Boehner and Governor Mike Pence will address our spring national leadership meeting,” Brooks said. “Each year our leaders are able to hear from top Republican officials and this year won’t be any different.”

“Over the past six years Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have set our country on the wrong path,” he continued. “Whether it is restricting economic freedom, weakening our national defense or straining our relationship with Israel, it is leaders like Mike Pence and John Boehner who will repair our standing in the world. We are excited they have chosen the RJC spring meeting as a forum to begin this fight.”

The RJC’s summit is being held at the Venetian Resort and Hotel, which is owned by billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife Miriam were the top political donors in the country in 2012, dishing out $100 million (or possibly more) to various GOP-leaning super PACs, including $2 million to the RJC’s Victory Fund.

Besides Adelson, the RJC’s board is packed full of influential pro-Israel Republican donors who all perspective 2016 presidential candidates would want to court, which is what makes Pence’s appearance so notable. The group isn’t exactly focused on local Indianapolis budget debates.

Last year’s RJC Spring Leadership Meeting featured speeches by potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

While Pence has repeatedly said his focus is currently on his gubernatorial responsibilities, he has made several moves which professional readers of political tea leaves believe indicate that the former radio talk show host and U.S. congressman is at least not entirely opposed to the idea of a run. In fact, the RJC’s gathering is right around the time Pence had previously said he would begin mulling the possibility of a White House campaign more rigorously.

“In Indiana, we have a long session of our legislature — which is the budget session — every two years, and that’s going to occupy all of my thinking and all of my focus for the first four months of next year,” Pence told Real Clear Politics while in New Hampshire last October. “So after we get through that, we’ll sit down as a family and think and pray about where we get called to serve.”

“Governor Pence remains focused on Indiana and welcomes every opportunity to share Indiana’s story and all the great things happening in the state with national audiences,” Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks told TheDC when asked whether political observers should read anything into the governor’s decision to speak to the RJC.

Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway, who has worked for Pence as a pollster, told TheDC that the governor goes to “the RJC Meeting as an honest broker, not hat in hand.”

“Those are smart business leaders and savvy political minds; they’ll be impressed with how he has improved and grown the Hoosier economy, staked his position as the ‘education governor’ and spoken forcefully against terrorism and anti-Semitism around the globe,” she said.

Pence and Boehner’s speeches will be open to the press. Brooks said other high profile names would be added to meeting’s speaking line-up shortly.

“Stay tuned for some more exciting speakers to be announced,” Brooks said.

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