What you need to know about Mike Pence, Trump's reported VP

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was reported Thursday as Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick, is a hard-line Tea Party Republican who has supported some of Trump’s most extreme positions — with a few notable exceptions.

Pence, 57, has served only one term as the Hoosier State’s governor. That term, though, has been marked by several local and national controversies, as well as sagging approval ratings as he heads toward reelection. He has also, in nearly equally measure, taken stances that could today be deemed blatantly pro-Trump and blatantly anti-Trump.

But Pence also carries more than a decade of Congressional experience with him — a background that could help balance Trump’s complete lack of elected office experience. In Congress, Pence proved himself a staunch conservative, but at least one of his major moves then clashes with Trump’s stances now.

Pence held openly mixed feelings about Trump during the GOP primary, not even endorsing him until he was the last candidate left.

Trump chooses Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as 2016 running mate

Here’s what you need to know about the man said to be Trump’s number two:

Political background

Pence, an Indiana native, served six consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, from 2001 to 2013, when he was elected governor.

Heading into his election, Pence saw his approval ratings dropping dramatically — from 62% at the end of 2014 to 47% late last year. He won the Republican primary in May unopposed, but faces a tough general challenge from Democrat John Gregg, the former Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, who also challenged Pence in 2012.

Pence’s name emerged as a possible presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012, but he never went for national office.

Lupica: Pence made religious freedom law mess, not media

On the issues: Immigration

Pence once, briefly, went against the grain with his party on immigration. In Congress, he proposed an immigration compromise in 2006 that would have created a guest worker program. The proposal faced steep opposition from fellow conservatives and eventually died.

Since then, he has leaned harder right on immigration issues. He voted in favor of building a fence on the Mexico border, a long-running GOP cause that the party eventually morphed with Trump’s demand for a border wall. (Pence has not commented directly on Trump’s wish for a wall.) 

Earlier this year, Pence earned national notoriety for trying to ban Indiana’s state agencies from settling Syrian refugees. A federal judge blocked Pence’s order, saying it “clearly discriminates” against refugees.

But Trump has vowed, if elected, to crack down on refugee screening and settlement.

Meanwhile, Pence explicitly opposed Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering America — one of the billionaire businessman’s most controversial proposals.


Mike Pence has taken a hard-line conservative stance on gun control, abortion and religious freedom.

(Michael Conroy/AP)

“Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional,” Pence wrote in a December 2015 tweet, which remained on his page as of Thursday.

Trade and economy

Trump and Pence need to have another awkward talk together on trade, where they have flown in opposite directions.

As a congressman, Pence regularly voted for free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. As governor, he championed the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“Trade means jobs, but trade also means security. The time has come for all of us to urge the swift adoption of the Trans Pacific Partnership,” he tweeted in September 2014.

Trump hasn’t exactly been mincing words on his hated for those deals. He called NAFTA “a disaster” and has repeatedly said TPP is a “rape” of American trade. 

But the two see eye-to-eye on business taxes, an issue that helped Pence bring some positive attention to his state. Indiana is regularly regarded as one of America’s most “business-friendly” states thanks to its low taxes, especially after Pence signed a law reducing corporate income tax to 4.9%.

Trump has portrayed himself as an advocate of businesses big and small, vowing to keep all taxes below 15% of a business’ income. 

Religion and LGBT rights

Pence is a born-again evangelical Christian, who opposes abortion and has tried to defund Planned Parenthood.

His faith could be a benefit to Trump, who failed to sway evangelical voters in most of the primary contests. Trump has also, sometimes, said he opposes abortion and believes women should be punished for it.

But Pence’s faith-based leadership also led to his biggest controversy so far: Last year’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Pence signed the act ostensibly to protect the “religious liberty” of Indiana business owners, but critics said the law only legalized discrimination of LGBT citizens.

Pence initially stood by the law, dismissing criticisms as “misinformation” and “gross mischaracterization.” After nationwide protests and business boycotts, Pence signed a so-called “fix” law to ensure no LGBT discrimination.

Pence last year tweeted his strong opposition to Trump's proposed Muslim ban.

Pence last year tweeted his strong opposition to Trump’s proposed Muslim ban.

(@GovPenceIN via Twitter)

But then that move left conservative and religious groups feeling betrayed by Pence. And the law opened the door for similar religious freedoms laws later passed in North Carolina and Mississippi — which never had a “fix” attached.

Gun control

Pence is a grade-A gun lover — just ask the NRA, which rated him “A” for his pro-gun voting record.

In Congress, he voted to ban product misuse lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and to loose restrictions on interstate gun purchases.

In the media

Not that many politicians could, but Pence has never come close to match Trump’s fiery rhetoric and media antics.

Instead, he often portrays himself in the media as a devout Christian from humble beginnings. Pence once described his own mellow style as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” 

He even once wrote an essay, “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he revealed feeling bad about attacking rivals.

“Negative campaigning is wrong,” Pence wrote, adding that any candidate who spends time on attacks instead “could have brought critical issues before the citizenry.”

Listening, Trump?

Still, Pence brewed a media scandal for himself this year when he announced the launch of a state-run, taxpayer-funded “news service” that would send pre-cooked stories about his administration to local media. After widespread ridicule — and several comparison to North Korea and Russia — Pence killed the idea.

About Trump

The man who is now said to be Trump’s running mate didn’t even support the billionaire business until two months ago.

Days before the Indiana primary, Pence gave Ted Cruz a half-hearted endorsement and said he would be voting for him. But he still praised Trump in the same endorsement, saying he has “given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”

Indiana turned out to be the state that crushed Cruz — he dropped out right after Trump handily won the state.

Only then did Pence jump on the Trump Train, becoming one of only four sitting governors to endorse him for the White House. 

mike pence
donald trump
2016 election

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