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Opinion

Five things to know about Mike Pence

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks on Thursday, July

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks on Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Indianapolis. Photo Credit: AP

This post originally appeared in The Hill.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is Donald Trump's choice for vice president, thrusting him into the national spotlight.

Pence, 57, and his wife, Karen, a former school teacher, have a son and two daughters.

Their eldest, Michael Pence, is a Marine Corps officer. Their youngest daughter, Audrey Pence, has talked about how she holds socially liberal views at odds with her father.

Here are five things to know about Pence, who endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) in his state’s GOP presidential primary but has repeatedly spoken highly of Trump.

He has loyal supporters on Capitol Hill

Pence served six terms in the House representing an Indiana district firmly anchored in Rust Belt territory.

He’s still beloved by many of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, where he transitioned from a Tea Party-style Republican insurgent to a leader in his party.

For Trump, that could be a benefit given his own so-so relationships on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a frequent critic of Trump’s, praised Pence this week as a friend.

Pence served as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and was later elected chairman of the House Republican Conference. He was also assigned to the Foreign Affairs Committee, giving him national security credibility.

Lawmakers interviewed by The Hill last week said they’d be thrilled to have him back on the scene.

“I’d be dancing in the aisles,” said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who said he attended Bible study with Pence when both were in Washington.

He is in a tough reelection race

Polls show Pence is in a toss-up reelection fight with Democrat John Gregg.

Pence came under criticism from the right for revising a religious freedom law he had signed days earlier after it caused a national uproar and led to threats of business boycotts just as Indiana was set to host the Final Four men’s college basketball tournament.

Critics of the law said it legalized discrimination against LGBT people. 

The whole episode ended up hurting Pence with voters across the political spectrum.

Pence also abandoned plans, uncovered by The Indianapolis Star, to launch a state-run news agency after another round of damaging headlines.

Critics say Pence has not accomplished anything significant and rather has ridden the coattails of his predecessor, former Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who is credited with improving Indiana’s fiscal health and growing its economy.

Supporters have cheered Pence's focus on tax cuts and credit him with signing into law one of the largest tax deals  in state history.

He is a well-connected fundraiser

Pence could go a long way in helping Trump shore up his fundraising deficit against Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Pence is well-connected to the Republican national fundraising network from his time on Capitol Hill.

And he has deep ties to the network of groups run by billionaire GOP donors Charles and David Koch.

Marc Short, a longtime Pence adviser, at one point served as president of Koch-backed Freedom Partners. And Matt Lloyd, Pence’s deputy chief of staff, was the director of communications for Koch Industries as recently as last year.

Other former Pence staffers are also part of the network, giving him a foothold into a powerful organization that has so far been on the sidelines of the presidential race this year

He is a staunch social conservative

A deeply religious man, Pence is a staunch social conservative and devout evangelical Christian who would be a hit at the Republican National Convention next week.

Indeed, one reason New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might not be Trump’s VP pick is that it could cause a revolt on the floor from Republicans who think he is too liberal.

Having a running mate in the good graces of social conservatives would be a huge asset for Trump, who has struggled to convince skeptical Christian conservatives that he is on their side.

At the same time, it could lead to more conflict for Trump, particularly on issues such as same-sex marriage and gay rights.

Pence has been pushing measures to limit the social impact of the LGBT community since his time in the House. The most notable legislation he signed as governor was the religious freedom law that fostered so much controversy.

Liberals despise Pence, and Democrats will likely seek to frame him as a controversial figure and an extremist who advocated for legislation against LGBT people.

He knows talk radio

Republicans laud Pence as an expert conservative communicator.

It’s something he’s been working on for decades.

Pence began his political career as the conservative radio talk show host of “The Mike Pence Show” in the early 1990s, which achieved statewide syndication. He later hosted a Sunday morning political talk show that aired in Indiana.

This post originally appeared in The Hill.

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