Editorial: Trump’s veep pick appeals to base

The Detroit News

Mike Pence was a necessary pick for Donald Trump as his Republican running mate. The Indiana governor should assuage social conservatives who are skeptical of the New York billionaire’s stance on issues important to them, like abortion and traditional marriage, and also calm those in the GOP establishment miffed by a candidate who does not play by their rules.

Pence walks comfortably across the Republican Party spectrum.

It would be hard to find a choice with more appeal to the religious right, and other GOP voters motivated by social issues.

Pence describes himself as a Christian first, and has been vocal about the influence of faith on his political career. He is ardently anti-abortion, signing as governor some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. He gained national notoriety last year by signing a religious freedom bill that critics say allowed businesses to discriminate against gays. After a national outcry, Pence agreed to a modification.

But Pence also is in good standing with those in the party concerned with more mainstream issues such as the economy and foreign affairs.

As governor of Indiana since 2013, he has stuck to predecessor Mitch Daniels’ fiscal prudence, limiting spending and tax hikes and bringing efficiency to government operations.

As is mostly the case with vice presidential picks, Pence was selected to appeal to the base. And while the left is snorting that he is too far right to represent a diverse country, he is no more extreme a pick than, say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the ultra liberal Massachusetts senator who has been on Hillary Clinton’s short list of running mates.

And Pence does add to the ticket some things missing from Trump’s resume.

For starters, he’s a political executive with experience managing a government budget and dealing with the legislative body. Trump boasts of his artistry in deal-making, but making a political deal is a far different exercise than making one in the private sector. Pence should help him with that.

As governor, Pence pushed through the largest tax cut in Indiana history, expanded school choice and convinced a conservative Legislature to fund an expanded pre-school program. He’s also shored up Indiana’s infrastructure with $800 million in new spending and pushed skills training to prepare workers for new jobs.

He served in Congress for 12 years before becoming governor. In the House, Pence finished his career as chairman of the Republican Conference, the No. 3 spot in the GOP caucus. He was a defense hawk who criticized cutbacks in military spending. And he was an unapologetic advocate for Israel.

Trump did not pick a mirror of himself — that would have been difficult to do even had he wanted to. Pence strongly criticized Trump’s call for travel bans on Muslims, although he did seek to stop a federal Syrian resettlement program in his state and has opposed granting legal status to those who have entered the country illegally. And he is far more conservative on taxes — and most other policy issues — than is Trump.

Pence gets the highest marks for ethics and character, which will make him a standout among the names so far on the presidential tickets.

He was probably a better choice than the other two finalists. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich risked overshadowing Trump in terms of personality, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has lost support among conservatives.

Mike Pence may do little to help Trump appeal to women, or to moderates. But that’s not his job. He should rally the base. It’s up to Trump to do the rest.