A Profile of Vice President Michael "Mike" Pence

Pence quit a race for governor to become Vice President

VP Pence Joins Alabama Senate Candidate Luther Strange At Campaign Rally
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Michael Richard "Mike" Pence is a conservative's conservative. Influenced by American political theorist Russell Kirk and Irish philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke, Pence cannot be pigeonholed into any one particular conservative ideology. He is part paleocon, part neocon, part cultural conservative and part social conservative. As a House Republican, Pence consistently stood up for conservative principles and allowed the Constitution to act his legislative guide. A Tea Party favorite, Pence was actively recruited by conservatives to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

He did make it to the White House in 2017, but not as President. Donald J. Trump tagged him as his running mate in July 2016. With President Trump's successful campaign, Mike Pence became the nation's 48th Vice President. 

Early Life

Pence was born on June 7, 1959, one of six children of Irish Catholic Democrats. He takes his middle name from his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, a Chicago bus driver who emigrated to Ellis Island between 1917 and 1923 from Tubbercurry, Ireland. Pence grew up admiring President John F. Kennedy and even kept a memory box of JFK memorabilia as a youngster. He graduated from Columbus North High School in 1977, received a BA in history from Hanover College in 1981, and earned a law degree from Indiana University in 1986. His father served in Korea and later was an oil distributor who ran a number of gas stations.

Early Career

Pence emerged from Hanover College as a fundamentalist conservative Christian Republican with a desire to serve in politics. He was just two years out of law school when he ran for U.S. Congress in 1988 and lost. Two years later, he again ran unsuccessfully. He's recalled that this second experience was "one of the most divisive and negative campaigns in Indiana's modern Congressional history." Soon after that campaign, Pence had an article, "Confessions of a Negative Campaigner," published in the Indiana Policy Review in 1991. He outlined three principals for every campaign: decency, issues, and victory.

Rise to Prominence

Pence worked as a lawyer before running for Congress. Following his unsuccessful Congressional bids and his subsequent article, he served as president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. He began broadcasting "The Mike Pence Show" from WRCR-FM in Rushville, Indiana in 1992 and the conservative talk radio program was syndicated state-wide in 1994. It aired weekdays. Pence also hosted a Sunday morning political TV program in Indianapolis from 1995 until 1999. When the Republican representing the Sixth Congressional District announced his retirement in 2000, Pence ran for the seat a third time.

2000 Congressional Election Campaign

The primary campaign for the seat was a six-way contest pitting Pence against several political veterans, including state Representative Jeff Linder. Pence emerged victoriously and expected to face Democrat primary winner Robert Rock. The campaign was already expected to be difficult for Pence, considering that Rock was the son of a former Indiana Lieutenant Governor, but when former Republican state Senator Bill Frazier entered the race as a populist independent, many considered Pence a long shot. But Pence wound up victorious with 51 percent of the vote after a brutal campaign.

Early Congressional Career

Pence began his congressional career as one of the most outspoken conservatives in the House. He refused to support a Republican-backed bankruptcy bill because it had an abortion measure in it with which he disagreed. He also joined a Senate Republican lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the newly enacted McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. He was one of just 33 House members to vote against President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act." In 2002, he cast a vote for a costly farm subsidy bill, for which he would later express regret. Pence won his subsequent reelection bids handily.

Rise to Congressional Leadership

Pence's soft-spoken demeanor masked an outspoken conservative personality on Capitol Hill. His fearless votes and strict adherence to his conservative principles endeared him to leadership, but his unwillingness to reach across the aisle in compromise made him a formidable opponent of the Left. Pence was elected to chair the Republican Study Committee and worked to recast the Republicans' conservative image in 2005. His background in radio and TV earned him numerous interview requests, which, in turn, forced Republican leaders to acknowledge his growing influence.


Later that year, Hurricane Katrina Struck the Louisiana coast later that year and Republicans found themselves were being cast as insensitive by liberals and unwilling to assist with the cleanup. In the midst of the catastrophe, Pence called a press conference announcing $24 billion in spending cuts, saying "... [W]e must not let Katrina break the bank." Pence also stirred controversy in 2006 when he teamed with Democrats to break a deadlock on immigration. His bill ultimately foundered and he was castigated by conservatives just a year after Human Events named him "Man of the Year." Pence rebounded, however, and ran for Republican Leader.

The Campaign for Minority Leader

When Republicans took a significant beating in the 2006 election, Pence observed, "We didn't just lose our majority. I believe we lost our way." With that, he threw his hat into the ring for Republican Leader, a post that had been held for less than a year by Ohio Congressman John Boehner. The debate centered around the failures of the Republican leadership leading up to the general election. Boehner successfully distanced himself from the pitfalls of the previous GOP leaders, however, and he committed himself to a more conservative future. Pence was beaten soundly, 27 to 168.

Political Prospects and the Vice Presidency 

Pence emerged as a major voice for the Republican Party under Democratic House leadership and in 2008, he was elected to be the House Republican Conference Chairman in 2008 – the third-highest ranking position in House party leadership. He also emerged as one of the rising stars of the GOP between 2006 and 2010.

After Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, Pence declined to run for Republican Leader, throwing his support instead to Boehner. He also stepped down as chair of the Republican Conference, leading many to suspect he would challenge Indiana Senator Evan Bayh or run for governor of the state. In early 2011, a strong movement got underway to draft Pence for president in 2012. The movement was led by former Kansas Representative Jim Ryun. Pence remained non-committal but said he would make a decision by the end of January 2011. 

It was May before he decided to seek the Republican nomination for Governor of Indiana. He ultimately won the election by a very narrow vote, taking office in January 2013. Pence ran unopposed in the Republican primary for governor in May 2016 in a bid for a second term. Then, in July, President Trump named him as his choice for a vice presidential running mate. Pence accepted and pulled the plug on his gubernatorial campaign. 

Personal Life 

Pence and his wife, Karen, were married on June 8, 1985. They have three children, Michael, Charlotte, and Audrey. Pence met his wife at an evangelical church service. She was playing guitar and he told her that he wanted to join the group. The couple was engaged nine months later.