CLEVELAND – Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will formally become Donald Trump’s running mate Wednesday and bring far more government experience and political capital to the ticket.
Those who know Pence say he just might be enough to help win Republicans the White House against Democrat Hillary Clinton, whose own unfavorable ratings rival Trump’s.
“He’s very popular in the House,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) of Pence, who King has known since 2000 when Pence served in Congress. “He’s a very conservative guy, but unlike so many in Washington, he doesn’t antagonize anyone and doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. He’s a conciliatory guy.”
Pence left Congress in 2013 as the GOP conference leader. He is known best on the national stage for signing, then backing off a bill that supporters of gay and transgender rights said would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve the LGBT community. He also has signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Pence’s task will be to help Trump win Midwest battleground states and to balance the concerns of most voters about Trump’s hard line views such as building a wall at the Mexican border to keep out “rapists and murderers” and to stop immigration of Muslims.
“People will be reassured,” King said. “He’s not a fire-and-brimstone guy. I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way, but he is the opposite of Donald Trump in how he approaches issues.
“Donald Trump is very instinctive, Mike is a very thoughtful guy,” King said. “I’d love to in the room with him and Donald Trump because they are very different guys.”
“Pence has a definite value,” said Mac McCorkle, a Duke University professor and a longtime Democratic consultant in North Carolina.
Trump “is patching up holes in the vote with Pence. So it’s a positive. It’s less likely the boat will sink now.”
Others are more cautious.
“Placing Pence on the ticket will reassure party regulars, but does little to expand Trump’s appeal,” said Brooks D. Simpson of Arizona State University, another political scientist. “If anything, some of his statements on social issues will intensify opposition to the Republican ticket, especially among women. However, given the rocky first two days of the convention, his speech tonight has a chance to put the Trump train back on track.”
That puts a lot of pressure on Pence’s speech to boost Trump, said Susan Del Percio, a national Republican strategist and commentator.
“Governor Pence will serve to unite the party and convince the viewers that Donald Trump is a capable leader and will be an effective instrument of change,” she said. “Of course, it will be up to Mr. Trump to make the pitch. His speech will determine if this convention is a success or failure.”
Pence “addresses the base of the party,” said state Republican chairman Ed Cox, who said he though Pence was planning a presidential run of his own.