“I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican,” Mike Pence introduced himself to the breakout session at AFP’s Defending the Dream 2014 summit this morning. The topic of the breakout session was government spending and budgetary waste, but the Indiana governor used the opportunity to talk at length about the successes of his first two years in office, including a $2 billion surplus and the fastest-growing educational voucher program in the country. The unspoken context of this presentation ended not so unspoken by the end, after Pence fired up the crowd. “Run for President!” one woman behind me yelled, which offered a bit of a contrast with the mixed feelings that have arisen about Pence of late among the grassroots:

The issue among fiscal conservatives with Pence isn’t about his budget toughness, but the Medicaid expansion from ObamaCare that Pence agreed to adopt in Indiana. Kristina Ribali‘s response to one of my tweets echoed the concern offered to my by a couple of attendees:

https://twitter.com/KristinaRibali/status/505387975552036864

Pence didn’t address this issue during the event, but certainly brought up other issues on the conservative agenda. As seen in the tweet above, that “I’m pro-life, and I don’t apologize for it,” Pence declared at one point to a large round of applause. Pence stuck mainly with fiscal conservativism, though, speaking about his opposition to No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Part D expansions of federal government. He emphasized the need to strengthen the federalist model, declaring that it will not be enough to merely cut the budget. The GOP needs to cut the scope and reach of the federal government, too.

However, Pence didn’t entirely skirt around the 2016 campaign, either. “Some say our next President should be a governor,” Pence said at one point, pausing before adding, “I have some sympathy with that sentiment.” The next President, Pence declared, needed to enable the states to handle more of the issues. A governor-turned-President should approach the job by trying to make his or her successor more able to take care of his own state’s citizens by returning authority and capital back to the state governments.

Finally, Pence advised the grassroots to be “happy warriors.” We’re winning, he told the audience, and we need to approach this election with joy rather than dread. There is plenty wrong with American government, but “there is nothing wrong with the American people.”

By the end, Pence had clearly won over this audience. We will see whether he can translate to the larger GOP audience soon.

Update, 8/30 7:40 am: Replaced original video with higher-quality version, and corrected a redundancy in the text.