Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is rumored to have decided on Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his potential vice presidential running mate, after much consideration. That could result in a disaster if Pence’s record for PR failures is any indication.
Here are the top five things anyone should know about Mike Pence that could make him a liability on the GOP ticket.
1. The unbelievable and unprecedented backlash for Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Before there was North Carolina’s bathroom bill, there was a Mike Pence-endorsed bill that gave “protections” to religious people who wanted to refuse service to LGBTQ people in the state. The problem in Indiana, however, was that Pence missed the cultural shift and underestimated those who would stand in opposition to him and his bill. Boycotts were called, conventions and speeches were canceled along with concerts, and the dollars were quickly draining from Indiana‘s tourism at a time when the state was already struggling financially. The CEOs of Yelp and Salesforce said they would reduce investment plans in the state and Apple CEO Tim Cook denounced Pence’s law in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome…is at risk because of a new law,” the editorial in the IndyStar read.
This is the person Trump chose to stand beside him after saying, “Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community: Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?” following the Orlando shooting that killed 49 people.
2. Pence took more than 2 months to respond when there was an outbreak of HIV in Indiana.
When an outbreak of HIV rocked Scott County, Indiana, Mike Pence was nowhere to be found for 65 days, until he finally declared a public health emergency. It was just another contemptuous act in Pence’s repertoire as the opioid epidemic began to take over the state. Clean needle exchange programs were illegal in Indiana, but the outbreak helped change GOP minds.
A major contribution to the HIV outbreak was the GOP’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, which Pence launched. According to the Huffington Post, the Scott County clinic, along with four other Planned Parenthood facilities in the state, provided critical HIV testing and information. However, those clinics have been closed since 2011 after funding cuts to the state’s public health.
3. He’s one Koch’d up governor:
Mike Pence is one of the Koch brothers’ favorite elected leaders. Support from the Koch brothers and conservative donors are a major component in a presidential run, so having the major money people’s favorite guy at your side if you’re new to politics is certainly helpful for campaign cash. Americans for Prosperity has been holding upMike Pence’s work in Indiana as a paragon of a good governor. Pence’s former chief of staff now runs the Koch’s political group Freedom Partners. Given the fact that the Koch’s have pledged to spend $1 billion in the 2016 election to support conservative candidates, his ties could be an asset to Trump as he realizes his own financial limitations.
4. Pence lacks a basic understanding of the economy:
The IndyStar said it perfectly: “When you deal your state a crushing economic blow, when you seem incapable of understanding the role you have played in creating this mess — well, that makes clear that you are not in the right job.”
Pence doesn’t have the best record for the Indiana economy. He’s had anemic economic growth. In fact, Indiana ranked last in economic job growth in the Midwest last year, and wages dropped from $53,500 in 2000 to $46,900 in 2013. Hoosiers are now making 86 centsfor every one dollar the rest of America earns.
The worst part is he ascribes to the same failed “trickle down economics” theory that has bankrupted states led by other GOP governors, like Kansas and Oklahoma. As Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has proven time and time again: Tax cuts don’t create jobs.
5. He’s a terrible governor and everyone hates him:
When your own state hates you, chances are you’re not going to bring a lot of value to the ticket. If you can’t even guarantee a win in your home state, it might be time to update your Rolodex with lobbyists who can give you a cushy job.
An April 1 editorial from the IndyStar cites Pence’s 12 years in Congress — one of the most “partisan and dysfunctional” branches of government — as one of his greatest faults. It doesn’t take a lot to see that the same rules don’t apply when you take over as the executive of an entire state.
“That’s where he belongs — in a place where a person can rise high by talking well and digging in and not really doing much,” the editorial explains. “A place where, for the most part, you are not held accountable for results. Being a governor is different. It’s about being a leader who is forced every day to think pragmatically, who knows that doing no harm is high on the list of requirements, and who understands that the job is at its core about making sure your state’s people have a better chance of earning a decent living or getting a great education tomorrow than they do today.”
Pence is simply not that guy.
If that isn’t enough, his own party hates him and would really rather see him out of the state so that Indiana voters aren’t reminded Pence is a Republican in November. With Pence as the GOP’s nominee for governor, Democrats stand a better chance of capitalizing on his image problems and picking up the office.
BuzzFeed has reported some of the things Pence wrote years ago and sent out as a candidate for Congress. “Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill,” an email read. Technically, he’s correct, it’s the cancer you get from smoking that ultimately kills you.
In the end, when your own party doesn’t want you and your own state is happy to see you go, chances are, you’re not the best option for a VP spot, but Trump has a small list of people willing to do the job.