This is the Pence being touted as Trump’s potential VP. But it is not the man Hoosiers have seen since we elected him in 2012. Instead, we got someone more interested in protecting his own presidential ambitions than in articulating and pursuing a consistent statewide vision. We got a governor whose administration veers between the cautious and the catastrophic.
Pence’s calculations began long before he ran for Indiana’s top office. In 2010, he hosted a private meeting with staffers, family and friends to discuss a gubernatorial bid. The group spent a long day debating what his candidacy would stand for, and Pence listened to various suggestions, including one for a bid that would have highlighted his evangelical views on abortion and same-sex marriage. In the end, though, he made it clear he would stick to a message with a wider appeal: jobs and schools. He ran a bland and careful campaign built on a “Roadmap for Indiana,” a densely footnoted pamphlet that aides passed out on the stump.
What’s clear now is that this was actually just a “Roadmap for Mike Pence’s Election.” Pence won, barely. Once he moved into the governor’s residence, he expanded his agenda, especially where it could boost his political future. Nowhere in the “Roadmap’s” 77 pages does it mention gay rights or same-sex marriage. And yet, in the spring of 2015, Pence happily — infamously — signed into law Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many believed was intended to allow Hoosiers to discriminate against gays and lesbians. It seemed in part a reward for the social conservatives he’d need in 2016, whether he was running for reelection in Indiana or on a larger stage. Instead, a stunned Pence watched as it grew into a national PR disaster.