Indiana Congressman Mike Pence was on fire over the weekend at the Values Voters Summit in Washington. This was a conservative crowd, and they found a candidate to rally behind. They showed their enthusiasm in a very American way: a straw poll that put Pence at the top of their preferred presidential picks -- and that also favors him for the number-two slot.
FRC President Tony Perkins said the poll results jibe with the results of a number of recent Republican primary elections for federal and state offices.
"Voters support candidates who are truly conservative both fiscally and socially," he said.
A strongly pro-Israel leader of House conservatives who has never shied from criticizing his own party for excessive spending, Mr. Pence has been a favorite speaker at earlier FRC "summits" and at other gatherings on the fiscal and social right since he first won election to Congress. Pence's fiscal conservatism comes naturally and has long been a cornerstone of his government philosophy. He is not a politician who sticks his finger in the wind to see which way it is blowing; he is a leader who makes his views known -- whether in crystal-clear writing (he writes numerous columns for the Wall Street Journal and other publications) or before crowds that he warms with his heartland values and patriotism or over the airwaves via his appearances on major media news shows or when he pops up on the radio. He used to host his own statewide radio show in Indiana, so he has years of experience thinking quickly on his feet. But his nimbleness is also derived from his solid core beliefs: fiscal conservatism, a strong national defense, a belief in free enterprise, and a level of pride and patriotism never shown by our current president (see my recent article, "Mike Pence and the Winning Back of America"; see also an earlier column, "Another veteran Democrat Senator in Trouble").
He is an ideas man par excellence. He headed up a think-tank in Indiana for years. His concerns are nationwide in scope, however. He approaches with thoughtfulness and creativity the issues of immigration, free speech and the fairness doctrine, the budget, and the economy. His views spring from the heartland state of Indiana -- a state that has fared comparatively quite well under a Republican Governor, Mitch Daniels, and under conservative principles. Indiana's economy is generating jobs, its budget has been under control for years, and it is meeting its obligations. All one has to do it compare its condition to the condition of the state next door, Illinois (my home state), which has been run by Democrats with liberal policies for years and went from being a breadbasket to a basket case.
On a smaller, more personal scale, I am proud to have known Mike Pence for almost ten years. I do not know him well; we did not grow up together or go to school together, and we are not family. I first got to know Mike Pence through a wonderful couple, Herb and Shari Rosen, who were politically involved and had a skill in finding young candidates filled with promise. Mike Pence fit that profile to a tee.
Over the years, I have followed Mike Pence's career with great interest. I have attended numerous small events over the years with him. He is unfailingly polite and considerate to everyone he sees. He will go to great lengths to meet and talk with everyone in the room. He is charismatic in front of large crowds and warm-hearted, humble, and real with small groups and individuals alike. He is personable and convivial -- no doubt traits that have carried him close to the top rungs of power.
Since I became politically involved, I have met with numerous politicians over the years -- on both sides of the aisle. There has never been one who has impressed me more with his grace, intelligence, and authenticity than Mike Pence.
Fair disclosure: I have hosted two fundraisers for Mike over the last few years. Unlike other candidates who take the money and run, Mike appreciates the support. After the first fundraiser, my wife was surprised to see flowers on our doorstep. She was surprised because I almost never send her flowers. I sheepishly admitted they were not from me (deep down, she knew better anyway). Then she thought that her dad must have sent them. No. Well, you know where I am going with this story. Mike Pence sent them with a kind note thanking my wife for sparing me to devote some time to meet with Mike and arrange the fundraiser. The second fundraiser was followed by a phone call from Mike Pence. I paraphrase one of his comments to me, "My mom taught me to say please and thank you." I have had the pleasure of meeting his mom -- and realize she was the type of person who would teach these very values.
I have hosted other fundraisers -- and never been treated with such respect and care.
These qualities shine through; they are not poses.
I have known Mike Pence since he began his political career. Now he is third in the House GOP leadership. He has consistently been elected to top posts by his fellow Republicans for years (including formerly heading the Republican Study Committee). Mike Pence is the same warm and humble man now that he was ten years ago. An Illinois friend has passed along this story about Pence and his ability to appeal to everyone: A person complimented Mike Pence on his ability to socialize with so many people at events -- that it was unusual among Illinois politicians. Mike laughed and told him that the minute a lawmaker forgets he is a servant of the people, he is toast. That should be true more than it is, and Mike Pence believes it with all his heart.
Fame and success have not changed him in the least.
But his appeal extends beyond the party and beyond its leadership. He is a favorite of the Tea Party crowd. He signed up to be the second House member of the new Tea Party caucus. He has been appearing before Tea Partiers and giving rousing speeches, encapsulating his views, that elicit rounds of applause ("You Look Like The Cavalry To Me"). His speech at the Values Voters Summit that charged up conservatives can be found here. Mike is very cutting-edge when it comes to tapping technology; he even has his own YouTube channel for other videos.
The ideological principles that Pence holds dear drive his policies; his values -- heartland values, American values -- guide him; his personality and character shape him and propel him forward.
I hope the rest of America discovers what a leader we have in Mike Pence. We can help them along -- spread the word and help Mike Pence Win Back America.