GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump confirmed this morning that he will select Indiana Governor and former House of Representatives member Mike Pence as his Vice Presidential pick. Pence, the 57 year old conservative governor of the Hoosier State is serving his first term as governor (succeeding Mitch Daniels in 2013).
Mr. Trump and Governor Pence will appear together Saturday at 11am. Mr. Trump had originally intended to make the announcement today, Friday the 15th, but out of respect for the terrorist attack in Nice, France, the event was postponed.
Initial reports of Pence being selected broke on Thursday, July 14th from RollCall and other online news sources. From anecdotal reporting, it appears that Mr. Trump, who has made a living off of showmanship and reality-show-style reveals, was frustrated at the leak that appeared to originate from Indiana (whether from Trump’s staff there or Pence’s is undetermined). By later in the afternoon on Thursday, Republican sources (who would be on the “call list” for Trump’s staff before the public announcement) all-but confirmed the news. Trump, however, played coy when being interviewed by both Greta Van Sustren of FoxNews as well as Bill O’Reilly Thursday night. As early as Friday morning, Trump’s inner circle was denying reports Trump had made the selection.
Pence, an often-cited potential presidential contender for the Republicans as early as 2008, has both the “insider credentials,” having been a member of the House from 2001 until 2013. Pence was also the Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 until 2011, as well as gubernatorial experience. Trump made no secret early-on that he was looking for a Vice President who could work inside the halls of power, where Trump has found himself so often on the outs with powerful members of his own Party. Pence’s role would clearly be as an intermediary between a Trump White House and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in Congress. However, at 10:50am, Trump made the news official by way of a Tweet.
While in Congress, Pence was one of several GOP members to oppose No Child Left Behind, Cash for Clunkers, Medicare Part D and TARP. Pence was also one of the first GOP Congressmen to actively support the Tea Party in 2009 (before the 2010 surge).
Pence is currently in the middle of running for re-election as Governor or Indiana (and, according to sources has $7M in his campaign account). Pursuant to Indiana law, he will not be able to run both for Vice President as well as Governor. As a consequence of joining the ticket, Pence will be forfeiting his chance at re-election. However, given that running would raise his national prominence even if there is a loss, he may have his eyes set on the crowded and well-credentialed 2020 field.
Governor Pence does bring some baggage to the race. Last year, he signed a controversial “religious freedom” bill that seemed to imply stores and institutions could deny service to individuals based on their sexual orientation. While the Governor quickly called for a patch in the legislation to prevent that eventuality, it was roundly condemned and likely cost the State of Indiana millions of dollars in lost revenue. The backlash from the signing possibly was the cause of Pence opting not to run for President. Given the number of business interests that rallied against him, it was a bad political call. However, Pence also oversaw the elimination of the estate tax in Indiana as well as the largest tax cut in state history.
Despite the foregoing, and an ill-fated attempt to launch a quasi-state-run media outlet, Pence’s record has been one that may put more conservative voters (as well as Party elites) at ease given the nominee at the top of the ticket. Pence is a far more “traditional candidate” and will go a long way to assuaging the fears of elected Republicans and Party backers.
Of the choices presented to Mr. Trump, he has gone with the candidate most of the GOP would like to see have a vibrant future in the Oval Office.