Pence under pressure to deliver

CLEVELAND — The pressure is on Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Students at school system Pence called 'forefront' of reopening now in quarantine Presidential debates demonstrate who has what it takes MORE as he prepares to step onto the convention stage to address the country for the first time as Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE’s running mate.

The Indiana governor is largely unknown outside of his home state, so the address will serve as a national introduction of sorts, creating a prime opportunity for the Trump campaign to build excitement for the ticket.

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Pence will deliver the final remarks of the night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. He will follow better-known acts like former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as well as party stars like Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE (R-Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire McConnell: Wearing a mask is 'single most significant thing' to fight pandemic McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Fla.).

The speech gives the Trump campaign a chance to turn the page on a chaotic vice presidential process that generated a torrent of negative headlines. Reports have indicated that Pence was Trump’s fourth choice, something the businessman has denied. Other reports said the billionaire had second thoughts about Pence and tried to back out at the last moment.

Pence, a deeply religious man with strong ties to Capitol Hill from his time in Congress, could help bridge the gap between Trump’s campaign and the social conservatives and Washington insiders who have been hesitant to embrace it.

His arrival comes at a crucial moment. The GOP suffered through a bumpy start to the convention and needs to change the dynamic before the convention clock runs out.

“He’s a very good choice because I think he gives balance to Trump,” Gingrich told The Hill. “Where Trump has a very aggressive personality, I think that Pence is a very good ambassador to the regular party and can reach out to a lot of people and work with them and rebuild the ties we need to be a unified party.”

Republicans are confident that Pence will rise to the moment.

As a former conservative talk radio host, Pence has long had a reputation as one of the party’s most skilled communicators.

Those who know Pence best say he closely studied the greatest political orators of the 20th century — Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. — as he fashioned his own speaking style.

As a young man growing up in Southern Indiana, Pence idolized Kennedy, in particular. But Pence’s allies say his cadence, style and confidence on the stage draw on all of those influences.

“Gov. Pence has been preparing for this day for most of his political life,” said Indiana state Sen. Mike Delph (R). “What the convention delegates will see, what the country will see, and what the world will see is one of our nation’s most gifted orators shining like a star.”

Pence’s advisers are keeping a tight lid on his remarks ahead of the speech.

But Republicans interviewed by The Hill expect he’ll focus heavily on the business-focused reforms he has enacted as governor.

Pence’s critics have sought to diminish his record, saying he rode the coattails of former Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who is widely credited with steering Indiana through the darkest days of the economic downturn and returning the state to firm financial footing.

Allies of Pence reject that narrative. They expect he’ll make the case on Wednesday night that his conservative policies have turned Indiana into an economic powerhouse and national success story.

State Sen. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a candidate for Congress who is running to replace Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) in the House, ticked through the figures he believes Pence will highlight on Wednesday night.

Pence, he said, is responsible for cutting corporate and personal income taxes, property taxes, and eliminating the state death tax, amounting to the largest round of tax cuts in state history and $3.5 billion in tax relief for Hoosiers. 

Banks said Pence is also responsible for two balanced budgets, the state’s triple-A credit rating, and for expanding school voucher programs.

“He has a full record of his own accomplishments,” Banks said. “He is a humble man and doesn’t like to take credit for it, but he deserves the credit. He’s been a champion of conservative reform and I believe America will hear that Indiana story tonight.”

Republicans also expect Pence will fully embrace the Trump agenda, even though the two men are still getting to know each other and figuring out how to reconcile the differences they have on key policy issues.

Pence, who endorsed Cruz during the primaries, has been critical of Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. He is a vocal proponent of free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump has made criticism of trade deals a cornerstone of his campaign.


Pence and Trump have also been on different sides of Iraq War, which Pence voted to authorize, and the bailout of Wall Street through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Pence tried to kill.

But now, Trump’s positions on issues like immigration reform and trade have been woven into the party’s platform, which was overwhelmingly adopted on the floor of the convention this week.

Expect Pence to make the conservative case for the Trump agenda, his allies say.

“Whatever differences there may have been between the Trump campaign and the conservative movement have been reconciled in the platform,” said Indiana delegate Jim Bopp. “I believe Pence will present the Trump agenda in a powerful way that is acceptable to the conservative movement.”

While Pence will be an asset for Trump among social conservatives, Republicans don’t expect him to focus heavily on issues important to that faction in his speech.

While the governor is not well known, he became the subject of national controversy last year over a religious liberty bill he signed into law that ignited protests and boycotts of Indiana. Critics said the law sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people, and it was ultimately revised.

The controversy blindsided Pence’s administration, and the governor — to the surprise of his friends and colleagues — struggled to defend the law. One interview with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos is remembered as the low point for Pence’s governorship.

Rather than focus on issues that could recall that controversy, Indiana Republicans see an opportunity for Pence to reintroduce himself to the voters who might have been turned off by his handling of the matter.

“That seems to be what people remember him for or identify him with right now,” one Indiana Republican told The Hill. 

“Certainly there will be a larger audience of independents and folks who don’t follow conservative politics who will recognize him for that. But now he’ll have a substantial amount of time to get up there and talk about his record and why he believes in this ticket. It’s an important moment for a vice presidential candidate who doesn’t have wide name recognition.”

— Scott Wong contributed.