Indiana Governor Mike Pence is in Israel this week, and you know what that means: he's thinking of running for president.
He's billing the trip as an "economic development" mission and hosting an Invest in Indiana breakfast and meeting with the American ambassador for a briefing on the Israeli economy. The Indiana Economic Development Foundation is footing most of the bill but, as with so many governors before him, it's more than a search for investors. It is a required campaign stop on the road to the White House.
Also helping foot the bill is the hard-right Christians United for Israel. That helps explain why one of Pence's first stops was a meeting with Naftali Bennett, the far right leader of the religious-nationalist Israel Our Home party and staunch opponent of Palestinian statehood.
These trips are one long campaign trip and photo-op. A typical trip was one I happened to see firsthand. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington sponsored annual missions to Israel for public officials and other community leaders. On one in particular, a Democrat running for governor of Maryland brought along a personal aide to photograph visits to holy sites and VIP meetings. The aide was there to gather material to be used in his boss' campaign publicity and fundraising appeals to Jewish donors.
Pence started his nine-day trip by meeting and posing for pictures with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At every opportunity Pence, like all the others, expressed his strong support for Israel. The former congressman had been fully briefed by his hosts and, if he's like the parade of other politicians and candidates before and after him, his Jewish supporters or pro-Israel lobbyists in Washington had a hand in writing his declarations of love and support for the Jewish state. I know because in a previous job I used to ghost write those speeches and policy statements.
With the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries only 13 months away, the blue and white campaign stop is going to be getting a lot more visitors.