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EDITORIAL: Pence, Trump an awkward fit

July 9, 2016

We don’t always agree with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, particularly when he’s focusing on conservative social issues. We have taken him to task for his handling of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act that cast the state in a bad light nationwide. And we pushed unsuccessfully for the Republican to embrace a civil rights law for the LGBT community.

But while we might have been critical of some of his positions on issues, we have respected he was a man of principle. He has firm beliefs and lives by them. Pence was a religious conservative when he served in Congress, when he ran for governor and since he’s been elected. Anyone paying attention should not be surprised by his actions.

We also believed Pence when he said repeatedly during the RFRA debate that he abhors discrimination—even though critics of the law said it could lead to discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Hoosiers.

Now there’s reason to wonder.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is considering whether to make Pence his running mate. And so far, the governor appears interested.

It’s easy to see why Trump might want Pence. The latter has significant governing experience that Trump lacks. He served 12 years in Congress, including a stint as chairman of the Republican Conference, the third-highest Republican leadership position in the U.S. House. And then he ran for governor in 2012. Pence could shore up Trump’s support among evangelical Christians, some of whom are frustrated by Trump’s previous comments about Planned Parenthood clinics and LGBT rights—as well as his flip-flop on abortion.

It’s not so easy to understand why Pence is interested in running with Trump.

For starters, where’s the overlap on agendas? While Trump’s policy statements often border on the incoherent, there is little evidence his priorities are close to in sync with Pence’s conservative vision.

Their words and deeds could hardly be more different, either.

Not only has Trump managed to offend nearly every minority group, he doesn’t speak or act with empathy (think about the time he imitated a man with a disability). Empathy is something Pence always has possessed.

Trump is publicly crude—something no one would ever say about the G-rated Pence. Trump is an admitted philanderer, while Pence is an unabashed family man.

Trump says demeaning things about women. (“Look at that face,” he said of opponent Carly Fiorina during a debate. And he called Rosie O’Donnell “disgusting.”) Pence would never say such things.

Is this Pence being baldly ambitious and opportunistic? We know, after all, that he has considered running for president.

Or is Pence acting out of a sense of Republican duty? His party is asking him to run and he can’t say no?

We don’t know the answer, but it’s disheartening to watch a politician who’s spent a career as a standard-bearer for the conservative Christian movement align himself with Trump’s reckless and misguided campaign.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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