INDIANAPOLIS — Supporters of U.S. Rep. Mike Pence hope a private conference call Thursday morning makes official what many already expect: that he'll enter the race for Indiana governor.

The conservative Republican has already shown plenty of signs that he'll seek the state's top office, including visits around the state and a blank email sent Wednesday that included a "Mike for Indiana" logo. He resigned his House GOP leadership position in November and previously announced that he wouldn't run for president because he wanted to serve Indiana instead.

"It would be a stunner if he didn't run," said Robert Dion, who teaches politics at the University of Evansville.

Pence is expected to be the favorite entering the race for the spot currently held by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who cannot run for a third consecutive term and is considering a presidential run.

Pence said Monday that he and his family had deliberated and prayed over the issue and came to a final decision Sunday. He was set to make the announcement Monday but delayed it until Thursday because of Osama bin Laden's death.

Pence, who often describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order," is a favorite among many tea party voters. Monica Boyer, an Indiana tea party activist who has been invited to listen to Thursday's conference call, said she expects the party to coalesce behind him.

"I will put my life on hold to campaign for him," she said. "I believe in him probably more than any politician I've ever met."

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Should he decide to run, Pence would enter the race with name recognition, a network of supporters and cash that could help him clear the field of other Republicans considering a campaign. Republican businessman Jim Wallace of Fishers has said he's exploring the possibility of running for governor. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman will not seek the office.

Among Democrats, many consider former House Speaker John Gregg a leading potential candidate. Gregg has said he plans to form an exploratory committee but hasn't made a formal announcement yet. U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly has also been mentioned, but he's considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Richard Lugar.

Former Sen. Evan Bayh and Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel both have declined to run.

AP reporter Deanna Martin can be reached at http://twitter.com/deanna_martin.

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