WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative U.S. Representative Mike Pence on Thursday ruled out a 2012 run for the Republican presidential nomination but left the door open for a campaign to become Indiana's governor.
The Indianapolis Star said on its website that Pence, 51, made his announcement in a letter being sent to supporters.
"In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana," Pence and wife Karen said in the letter. "We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012."
Pence's supporters, who include Tea Party advocates, have been pressing him to mount a bid for the Republican nomination. The nominee will face Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
Pence appeared to have little name recognition among potential Republican contenders. A Gallup poll early this month said 4 percent of Republicans had a strongly favorable view of him, compared with 29 percent for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and 27 percent for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
The Republican 2012 field so far is small, with little-known Herman Cain the only announced candidate, but it is expected to grow in the weeks and months ahead.
Widely expected to run are former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Other potential candidates include Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and South Dakota Senator John Thune.
Pence said he would decide later this year on his next political step. Many Indiana politicians believe Pence is positioning himself to run for Indiana governor to succeed Republican Mitch Daniels, who is in his second and last four-year term.
Daniels, a White House budget director under former Republican President George W. Bush, has been weighing whether to join the 2012 field.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)