When reports began to trickle in yesterday that Indiana Governor Mike Pence would be chosen to be Donald Trump’s running mate, many conservative leaders rushed to give their stamp of approval.
“It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Mike Pence’s,” gushed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. “We’re very good friends. I have a high regard for him. I hope that [Trump] picks a good movement conservative. Obviously, Mike is one of those.”
“Mike Pence is a pro-life trailblazer and Mr. Trump could not have made a better choice,” praised Marjorie Dannenfelser, a top pro-life leader, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, and contributor to The Pulse 2016.
Pro-abortion advocates immediately went on the attack, which is always an encouraging sign.
“Pence has supported, sponsored, and signed some of the country’s most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the past decade,” The Daily Beast, a left-wing outlet, reported.
“Mike Pence has led a crusade against abortion access and LGBT rights,” blared Mother Jones in an opposition research dump.
But some conservatives took issue with the pick.
The Weekly Standard writer Mark Hemingway still remembers Pence’s religious freedom disaster last year:
Recall that last year, Indiana passed a state religious freedom restoration act (RFRA), which was the state version of existing federal legislation that passed Congress and was signed into President Bill Clinton with overwhelming bipartisan support. (John McCormack has an explainer of the legislation here.) Though the Indiana law is not in conflict with other LGBT protections, it was decried as an act of bigotry. Journalists started fishing for villains, settling on the religious owners of an Indiana pizza parlor who said they would not (hypothetically) want to cater a gay wedding. Companies such as Apple and Ebay, which have no problem doing business in bastions of enlightened attitudes on gays as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, threatened to boycott Indiana. (Curiously, they have not also threatened to boycott the existing 21 states with RFRAs.)
Once it became clear that Pence was going to have to make a stand on religious freedom, he folded. Indiana’s religious freedom law was gutted at Pence’s direction within a week of it being passed.
And in an appearance on Chicagoland TV’s Politics Tonight, Terry Schilling, a contributor to The Pulse 2016, also touched on Pence’s religious freedom disaster, while expressing cautious optimism about the pick:
I think that [Pence] is still gaining his feet, so to speak, on the national platform. He lost that religious liberty battle back last year that I think he could have won if he had dug in just a little bit deeper, but we’ll see. I just think he’s a little bit untested, but overall he’s a solid conservative across the board, socially and fiscally, and I think he brings a lot of good things to the table for this team.
Was the Indiana debacle a learning experience for Pence? Can we take solace in Pence’s outstanding pro-life credentials? Let’s hope.
UPDATE: Trump confirms Pence will be his VP pick.
I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2016
Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe.