Pence brings conservative bona fides to Trump
© Getty Images

Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence is lending his GOP establishment and conservative bona fides to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE.

Trump’s selection of Pence as his No. 2 gives the ticket a man with experience running a Midwestern state who is also a household name in the hallways of Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT

Currently Indiana’s governor, Pence spent a dozen years in Washington as a House lawmaker, where he eventually climbed the ranks to become a member of leadership as head of the House Republican Conference.

Trump himself said he wanted a vice president who knows how to deal with Washington, and it appears Pence would ably fill that slot, as GOP leaders in Congress heaped praise on him.

“It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Mike Pence’s. We’re very good friends. I have very high regard for him,” said Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocratic super PAC quotes Reagan in anti-Trump ad set to air on Fox News: 'Are you better off?' Trump lashes out at Reagan Foundation after fundraising request The Memo: Trump's grip on GOP loosens as polls sink MORE (R-Wis.), amid rumblings of Pence’s selection. “I hope that he picks a good movement conservative. Clearly Mike is one of those.”

On style and substance, Pence in many ways is a strong counterweight to Trump. While the billionaire is known for brash, bold and sometimes inconsistent statements, Pence offers a more consistent tone while offering years of steady Christian conservative principles.

At the same time, Pence’s selection to join the GOP ticket returns him to the national political conversation despite many thinking his political future was on the ropes after a sometimes bumpy tenure as governor. And picking such a strong conservative could make bipartisan inroads hard to come by in the general election.

Pence was born and raised in Indiana. Before heading to Washington, he worked as a private attorney, headed an in-state conservative think tank and hit the airwaves as a talk radio host.

After a pair of unsuccessful runs for a House seat in 1988 and 1990, Pence was elected to Congress in 2000, where he quickly established a reputation as a staunch conservative while climbing the leadership ranks.

In 2006, Pence unsuccessfully ran for the top spot among House Republicans, who were then in the minority. The man who defeated him in the minority leader race? John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future Lott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients MORE (R-Ohio), who would go on to become Speaker before stepping down amid conservative pressure within his caucus in 2015.

Pence was unanimously elected head of the House Republican Conference in 2009, making him the third-highest ranking Republican in the House.

As a legislator, Pence was a strict fiscal and social conservative, eagerly advocating for tax cuts and spending limits, pushing earmark reform and resisting new protections for the LGBT community.

He called for a ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood and also opposed bailouts for the financial and auto industries.

That mantra stuck with him after becoming Indiana’s governor in 2013 — for good and for bad.

Under Pence’s watch, the state’s economy has grown and the unemployment rate has been cut nearly in half. But the state was thrust into the national spotlight over a controversial law that was billed as ensuring businesses and individuals could cite religious beliefs if challenged in court.

Many feared the law would allow Indiana businesses to discriminate against gay people, and a raft of controversy ensued. The law became national news, and major organizations, including the NCAA and Apple, criticized the measure.

Amid concerns the blowback could hurt the state’s economy, the legislature passed, and Pence signed a modified version aimed at ensuring businesses could not bar service to gay customers.

Pence described the controversy as largely a misunderstanding, but the episode didn’t do him any favors. He also caught flak over a quickly abandoned plan to create a state-run media outlet that would pre-write articles for other publications.

Under Pence, Indiana was the first state to drop Common Core education requirements and also agreed to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.

Before joining the ticket, Pence was facing a tight reelection battle; polls showed him with a slim lead over Democrat John Gregg, the man he narrowly beat to win the office in 2012.

While Pence will now serve as Trump’s leading advocate, the two do not see eye to eye on every issue. Pence criticized Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration, calling it “offensive and unconstitutional” in December.

He also offered support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership back in 2014, calling for it to be swiftly adopted. Trump has made railing against free trade deals a centerpiece of his campaign.

And Pence said he would be voting for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  Ted Cruz bashes Oprah for 'lecture' on race: 'What utter, racist BS' Senate Democrats prepare seven-figure spending spree in Texas MORE (R-Texas) in his state’s GOP primary held back in May, calling him a “principled conservative.” Many saw that contest as the last, best chance for challengers to prevent Trump from achieving enough delegates to lock up the nomination. But Trump went on to win the state anyway, and Pence reserved plenty of praise for him as well.

“I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C.,” Pence told a local radio host when announcing his Cruz endorsement. “I’m grateful for his voice in the debate.”

Pence and his wife, Karen, have been married since 1985. They have three adult children: Michael, Charlotte and Audrey.