Recent months have made one thing clear: You can put those Mike Pence for President campaign buttons, if there were any, back in the drawer.
Something else, meantime, is becoming more obvious with each new mistake: Pence was never meant to be a governor. A partisan and dysfunctional Congress that lives on bright line divisions was his home for 12 years, and that's where he belongs — in a place where a person can rise high by talking well and digging in and not really doing much. A place where, for the most part, you are not held accountable for results.
Being a governor is different. It's about being a leader who is forced every day to think pragmatically, who knows that doing no harm is high on the list of requirements, and who understands that the job is at its core about making sure your state's people have a better chance of earning a decent living or getting a great education tomorrow than they do today.
In recent days, Fortune magazine listed former Gov. Mitch Daniels among "the world's 50 greatest leaders." At the same time, Pence, the man who followed Daniels into office, has once again been exposed as a stunningly ineffective leader.
When you have to "clarify" a horribly damaging piece of legislation that you raced to sign, when you dodge a question on national TV about whether discrimination is legal in your state, when you deal your state a crushing economic blow, when you seem incapable of understanding the role you have played in creating this mess — well, that makes clear that you are not in the right job.
And to be clear, this is not just about the "religious freedom" bill fiasco, as bad as it is and as poorly as Pence has performed during the controversy. Let's consider the other malpractice in the governor's office in recent months.
And now comes the 'religious freedom' bill, which has done damage to Indiana that sadly will linger for years. Pity those corporate leaders trying to lure top talent to Indiana. Or city leaders now facing another obstacle in their way as they bid for hotly contested conventions. Or parents who want their children to stay close by after graduation. Or people who just want to be proud of their state.
Diminishing this as a "perception" problem, as Pence did repeatedly during a news conference Tuesday, was a new example of leadership negligence. And it crystallized a thought that I've had for some time: He is simply not suited to be an executive branch leader. It is not his skill set. He is a talker, not a leader.
But each step forward has been followed by a colossal mistake: Turning down more significant preschool investments, the state-run news debacle, and now a political crisis that has turned into the most damaging self-inflicted wound many of us have ever seen in Indiana.
And that's just since October.
Comebacks are almost always possible in politics. But for Pence time is getting short. He's had multiples opportunities over the past week to lead. Instead, he has stumbled.
Daniels was not perfect as governor. But it's worth remembering that only 27 months ago a solid majority of Hoosiers had a sense of pride in their government and in the idea that it had been led for eight years by a big thinker. A big thinker who worried not about being Indiana's pastor but about repairing the state's economic situation.
For Indiana Republicans, it must be particularly hard to accept what has been lost in these past 27 months: The hard-earned mantle of the party of action and the party of ideas. Under Daniels, it was also a party that had made inroads with minority groups and college students.
For Indiana Republicans, that mantle is lost. It was shattered by a governor who never should have given up his seat in Congress. It was shattered by a governor who is in the wrong job, and whose mistakes have cost Indiana dearly.