Pence’s unflappability could help Trump stay cool

Brian Slodysko
Associated Press

Indianapolis — As a conservative talk-radio host in the 1990s, Mike Pence described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”

Two decades later, Pence is the unflappable conservative governor of Indiana who has caught the eye of another fiery personality: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Where the brash billionaire is impulsive, Pence is cool-headed. Where Trump makes conservatives suspicious, Pence has credibility. And where Trump struggles to draw evangelical Christians, Pence is well-regarded by them.

A favorite quote highlights how Pence might smooth some of the sharp corners of the Trump campaign and its supporters.

“I’m a conservative,” Pence has often said. “But I’m not angry about it.”

The former congressman also is a proven fundraiser with close ties to billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch and their network of wealthy donors, many of whom have been dismissive of Trump.

“One thing you can say about Mike Pence is he’s got a very calm, steady demeanor that in some ways is a little Reaganesque,” said Christine Mathews, a Republican pollster for former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. “He’s a counterbalance to Trump in that way.”

Not so long ago, their relationship was a little awkward. Trump met privately with Pence before Indiana’s primaries, seeking his endorsement. Instead, Pence, under pressure from national conservatives, tepidly endorsed Trump’s rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, while still lavishing praise on Trump. Trump won that primary. Before the night was over, Cruz had quit the race.

For Pence, a former six-term congressman, selection by Trump would offer a return to national politics after his embrace of the role of a governor of conservative social issues sidelined his own presidential ambitions.