With many Republicans in the Congress still not totally sold on Donald Trump as their party’s nominee for President, the news that his running mate might be Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana – a former member of Congress – had GOP lawmakers feeling better about the road to the November elections.
“Mike Pence understands the House, he’s a rock solid conservative and I think he would go a long way with a lot of people,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
“It does with me,” Chaffetz told reporters.
A few feet away off the House floor, Pence also won the glowing support of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), one of many more conservative Republicans who have been slow to warm to Trump.
“He fills in a lot of the blanks on the social conservative side of this,” King said of Pence, his former colleague in the House.
“He gives a lot of confidence to the evangelical communities in America, to the pro-life, to the pro-family,” King added about Pence.
“Campaigns are about coalitions, and I think what Mike does is bring the Trump part of the party together with the more traditional social and national security conservatives,” said Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), who succeeded Pence in Congress.
“He’s in many ways sort of the anti-Trump,” Messer said, citing Pence’s “long record as a social conservative.”
Pence served six terms here in the U.S. House, where he was known as a consistently conservative Republican, not only on social and religious issues, but also on the fiscal side, where he pushed for GOP budget cuts and balanced budget plans.
“After witnessing runaway spending by both political parties, Washington, D.C. is addicted to spending,” Pence declared on the House floor in April of 2011.
Pence though lost a lot of street cred with some in the conservative movement, when he backtracked in a fight over religious liberty over a state law that would have allowed businesses to deny services to gay and lesbian customers.
“He gives Trump the veneer of conservatism without anyone ever having to worry that he’d actually fight for those principles,” conservative activist Erick Erickson wrote of Pence earlier this week.
“To regain conservative trust, Mike Pence must rediscover the courage he once had,” said conservative activist Richard Viguerie.
On Wednesday as news swirled about Trump’s pick, Pence seemed to be taking a victory lap of sorts on Twitter about his accomplishments as Governor of the Hoosier State:
Most people who have been politically active on Capitol Hill would know who Mike Pence is – most voters around the nation probably have no idea that he is the Governor of Indiana – that’s the way a pick for Vice President often works.
In that sense, does Pence bring something to Trump and the GOP for 2016? Pence has been there in Congress, and certainly knows the ropes as a lawmaker and Governor in a way that Trump does not.
But in the end, the voters are voting for Trump – not for Pence.