Mike Pence’s victory in our gubernatorial contest was the highlight for Hoosier Republicans on Tuesday, and among the few bright spots nationally on a largely dismal night for the GOP.
Pence now has the chance to show his election was not a partisan triumph but a big win for our state. He has the intelligence, insight and character to seize that opportunity. I’m confident he will.
Throughout the race, Pence was tireless, focused and self-disciplined. These core attributes of a successful chief executive were on display from day one. His attention never wavered from the issues that matter most to Hoosiers—jobs, economic opportunity, education. He got plenty of encouragement and support, but needed no help staying on the job and staying on message.
The self-discipline included not being distracted by unfounded, unfair attacks. His Democratic opponent, John Gregg, was relentlessly negative. Gregg began his campaign trying to tie Pence to something written by someone else two decades ago. He ended it trying to tie Pence to something said by someone else two weeks earlier—Richard Mourdock’s instantly infamous statement that pregnancy resulting from rape is something “God intended.”
Pence refused to take the bait on this and other Gregg charges. He also handled about as well as possible the impossible situation created by Mourdock’s statement. As head of the Indiana Republican Party and its ticket, Pence couldn’t flatly repudiate the party’s Senate candidate. Yet he immediately repudiated Mourdock’s statement, at some cost among some segments of our party.
The greater cost from Mourdock’s comment came with independents and moderates in both parties, trimming what would have been a huge Pence win to a still decisive four-point margin. For most Hoosiers, Gregg’s effort to paint Pence as a Mourdock clone didn’t square with the Pence they had come to know. In the end, Pence ran four points behind Mitt Romney in Indiana; Mourdock trailed by 10. That’s why Pence will be Indiana’s 50th governor and Joe Donnelly is our next U.S. senator.
Pence also won a competitive campaign in which he ran not one negative attack ad. This is remarkable—and has been too little remarked upon by media sorts who oft pontificate on the negativity of political campaigns. But it has not gone unnoticed by Hoosiers. This includes those outside Pence’s former congressional district.
I believe the closer they look the more they’ll like Pence, who is among the individuals I’ve come to know quite well during my own involvement in politics. As I’ve told my children, one of the toughest things about politics is that you come to know some people (including in your own party) way too well. But in Pence’s case, this has been one of my best political experiences.
He is thoroughly principled and thoroughly honest. He is (in his words) “conservative but not angry.” You will not always agree with him—that’s true for me as well—but you will never have cause to doubt his sincerity and integrity. He is a very good man. He’s going to be a great governor.•
Rusthoven, an Indianapolis attorney and graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, was associate counsel to President Reagan. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.