INDIANAPOLIS — After residency questions sank the ambitions of three of Indiana's top Republicans, it seems natural that Democrats would look for a fourth score with the issue.
U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and former U.S. Rep. David McIntosh both lost primary battles earlier this month on questions of where they lived and whether they were properly registered to vote in Indiana. Former Secretary of State Charlie White was kicked out of office and sentenced to one year of home detention after he was found guilty of illegally voting in the 2010 Republican primary election.
The fourth target of the residency question is now Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence.
But just as trying to stretch a double into a triple is usually asking for an out, stretching the rare triple into an inside-the-park home run is almost unheard of. One day after the primary earlier this month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg did just that, criticizing Pence for raising his family in Virginia since his election to Congress in 2001.
When asked about the importance of maintaining a residence in Indiana during a recent meeting with newspaper editors in Indianapolis, Pence paused before answering the question.
"Well, I'm a lifelong Hoosier. I was born and raised in the state, and everyone in my family is a Hoosier, except our son: he's a Boilermaker," Pence said with a pinch of snark, referencing his son's attendance at Purdue University. Then he laid down a clean, reasonable response: He owns two homes, one in Indiana and one in Virginia. He says he chose to raise his family in Virginia so they could stick together.
When Lugar answered questions about his residency, he couldn't remember the address on his Indiana driver's license. When McIntosh was asked about his residence and voter registration by a WISH-TV reporter, he walked away from the camera. And when White was put on trial in a Marion County court in a voter fraud case, he was convicted on six of seven felony charges.
The underlying troubles of each of those three are vastly more vexing than Pence's situation. Lugar sold his Indianapolis home in 1977 and stayed in hotels when he was back in the state. McIntosh held a Virginia driver's license but still voted in Indiana. White's complicated story involved various stays at his ex-wife's house, his car and a townhome he was letting his fiancée stay in until they were married.
One year ago, White cautioned that politicos had opened a can of worms when they went after him for illegally voting from his ex-wife's address. At the time, his words were dismissed as sour grapes, but that was before the residency question cleared two top-tier Republicans from the field.
So what about stretching that triple to an in-the-park homer? Gregg argues that Pence's vote against the 2008 bank bailouts, which ultimately spun off the 2009 automaker bailout, and his support for international trade deals show the longtime congressman is out of touch.
"That just shows when you're out in Virginia, you're out of touch with Indiana. That's my point," Gregg said. "It's a question of not where one legally resides, it's a question of whether or not they are in touch with what is going on in Indiana."
Of course, that's a highly subjective assessment. When asked if the same criticism applied to other members of Congress — like Democratic Reps. Andre Carson, Pete Visclosky and Joe Donnelly, who like Pence is running for statewide office — Gregg shied away from the critique, arguing it was Republicans who banged that drum.
The residency argument is also part of a broader attack Gregg is trying to build, labeling Pence as a creature of Washington more than he is of Indiana. In some ways, that same attack is already being used by Republicans who are trying to drape President Barack Obama around Donnelly's neck.
Just a year ago, questions about Lugar's residency were shrugged off as fringe political fodder. And indeed they probably would have stayed there without a joint effort by tea partyers and Indiana Democrats to raise the issue in a coordinated attempt to knock off Lugar.
For Pence, it will just be Democrats banging that drum this time. He has already shown he's not running from the question. He just needs to remember which address is on his driver's license when that question comes.