Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and his vice presidential candidate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, now stand as an official team. This weekend, the duo performed a bizarre ceremonial rollout before an awkward 60 Minutes interview. The Indiana governor may be relatively new to the mainstream national spotlight, and Trump’s overpowering presence makes him seem downright bashful in comparison. However, this isn’t Pence’s first political rodeo. How did Pence get here, and what has he accomplished?
Trump chose Pence to attract the Republican establishment support he’s previously lacked. This choice isn’t as flashy as a Chris Christie pick, but could volley the real estate mogul to a November win. Although Trump prides himself upon nabbing the nomination without any governing experience, he and his
family advisers were savvy enough to realize that a political insider would be the most mature course. Let’s dig into Pence’s policy-laden past and see what he brings to the Trump table.
- Loads Of Experience: The lifetime politician has lodged four years in his current position as governor of Indiana — where he drastically cut taxes like Trump wants to do on a national level — and won’t seek gubernatorial reelection while pursuing this VP bid. He also logged six Congressional terms and made waves for many traditionally conservative causes.
- An Early Scandal: Pence reportedly inspired the Federal Election Commission to set up rules about campaign fund usage. This move went down after Pence funneled funds for personal expenses in the late 1980s, using donations to pay for his mortgage, groceries, and golf tournament fees. The fallout cost him his first Congressional race, but inspired him to publicly repent and carve out the wholesome persona voters now see as a contrast to Trump.
- A Squeaky-Clean Image: Pence very much holds himself out a born-again Christian. His precise self-description is “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” Pence only drinks alcohol when his wife is present to avoid temptation, which has presumably prevented adulterous scandals from marring his reputation.
- Favors Religious Freedom Over LGBT Rights: Pence famously angered David Letterman in 2015 by signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows Indiana businesses to discriminate based upon sexual orientation. He also voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007, which would have banned such treatment on the job. Pence zealously opposed Obama’s directive to public schools regarding transgender bathroom choice. And finally, Pence once stated that gay couples have triggered a “societal collapse.”
- A Pro-Life Stance While Slashing Women’s Health Funds: Pence has made numerous efforts, some successful and some not, to cut abortion access. In 2011, he failed to pass a Congressional amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, but he at least succeeded in launching the first national effort to take down the abortion provider. He then signed an Indiana law that denied abortions to women seeking the procedure on grounds of fetal abnormality. The law requires all miscarried and aborted features to be given a proper burial or cremation.
- Some Very Uncomfortable Public Health Policies: In 2000, Pence advocated for the use of HIV/AIDS funding to be used for conversion therapy instead. He voted in 2009 to extend the federal ban on funding needle-exchange programs. In 2015, he was forced to sign an emergency order after an HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana. At the time, Pence emphasized his opposition to the temporary program because he thinks clean needles encourage drug abuse. Pence has been criticized for ignoring science in ways too. As a Congressman, Pence once wrote that “smoking doesn’t kill.”
- Supports The War On Terror: Trump has made little secret of his desire to let America take care of itself instead of interfering with and assisting other countries. This stance contrasts with Pence’s interventionist outlook and support of the Iraq War, which Trump has countered as Pence being “entitled to make a mistake every once in a while.” Pence supports Israel and, like Trump, he’s not opposed to the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique.
- A Pretty Normal Jobs Record: Trump boasted about his running mate’s ability to grow jobs.. However, Indiana’s job growth level is about on par with the nation. Politifact adds that Pence has overstated this accomplishment by failing to adjust job numbers relative to overall population growth in Indiana.
- A Somewhat Controversial Radio Host: In the 1990s, Pence hosted The Mike Pence Show, where he took on issues like adultery, which he believed America found “mainstream” and “no longer a big deal.” Pence used the show for odd tangents like labeling Mulan a symbol of leftist propaganda.
- A Political Nice Guy: In 1991, Pence penned an essay that railed against negative campaigning, which appears to be Donald Trump’s specialty — to attack opponents rather than focus upon policy. He wrote how the method is not only wrong on a personal level, but also because it’s a huge waste of campaign dollars. Pence appears to have laid this resolution aside while joining Trump and allowing the real estate mogul to shush any questioning on the subject.
Overall, Trump and Pence don’t appear to be political soulmates, which is precisely why he was appealing to Trump’s campaign advisors. He needed a running mate who can soften up his ticket and win over some resistant conservatives who have — until now — resisted pledging their endorsements and votes. Will Pence help Trump take a gold-plated White House? We won’t have to wait long to learn the answer to this question.