Mike Pence to Step Down As No. 3 House GOP Leader

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WASHINGTON — A top House Republican who's been considering a possible bid for the White House announced Wednesday that he's stepping down from the House GOP leadership team.

Indiana Rep. Mike Pence — who's made multiple trips to states that host early presidential primary contests — alluded to a potential presidential bid in a statement he issued to his colleagues announcing he will step down as GOP conference chairman.

Pence said he's considering "new opportunities to serve Indiana and our nation in the years ahead," adding, "I have come to realize that it may not be possible to complete an entire term as Conference Chairman. As such, I think it would be more appropriate for me to step aside now."

The conference chair position is currently the No. 3 GOP leadership slot but would become the No. 4 GOP post when Republicans take over in January.

Pence is a darling of social conservatives and has made political trips to states such as Iowa that host early GOP presidential contests. He is also strongly in favor of tax cuts and a streamlined federal government and is a strong opponent of abortion and gay marriage.

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"We must never compromise on our commitment to end this era of runaway federal spending, borrowing, bailouts, deficits and debt," Pence said. "We must never shrink from our stand for a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, and traditional moral values."

In September, Pence won a presidential straw poll at a "values voter" summit in Washington. He's made political trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, all of which host critical early presidential contests.

The six-term lawmaker is a former talk radio host and lists President Ronald Reagan as his hero.

Pence was recruited for the leadership post two years ago by Speaker-to-be John Boehner, R-Ohio. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas immediately announced he would seek the post, and others, such as Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, are weighing bids.