Trump And Pence: A Study In Political Contrasts

Nov 15, 2016
Originally published on December 15, 2016 1:26 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that his vice president-elect, Mike Pence, will have a major role in governing. Already, Trump has put Pence in charge of the presidential transition effort. Well, the pair met today at Trump Tower in New York. That's where Trump and his closest aides are preparing for their inauguration in just over two months. And NPR's Sarah McCammon reports the two men have many differences in experience, style and ideology.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Donald Trump, with his bold personality and background in real estate, was an unconventional candidate from the beginning. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, meanwhile, is a far more recognizable Republican.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE PENCE: People who know me well know I'm a pretty basic guy.

MCCAMMON: At a press conference in July in New York City, Pence was introduced as Trump's running mate. He delivered his favorite description of himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: I'm a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order.

MCCAMMON: Pence's reputation as a staunch social conservative who's opposed to abortion rights and same-sex marriage helped reassure nervous members of the party base. From that first day, Trump promised that Pence, a governor with a decade of experience in Congress, would help him govern.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: So I'm here today to introduce the man who'll be my partner in this campaign and the White House to fix our rigged system.

MCCAMMON: The two men have differed at times not just on tone but on policy. But throughout the campaign, Pence has unflinchingly defended and promoted Trump. On election night, it was Pence who introduced Trump to the world as the new president-elect of the United States.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: The American people have spoken. And the American people have elected their new champion.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAMMON: Vice presidents are often relegated to the background. And, given the differences in their personalities, you might expect Pence to lay low. As Pence noted with this self-deprecating joke at the Republican National Convention, he and Trump couldn't be more different in their styles.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: You know, he's a man known for a large personality, a colorful style and lots of charisma. And so I guess he was just looking for some balance on the ticket.

MCCAMMON: But Trump seems to be positioning Pence to do some heavy lifting, while Trump himself crafts the vision. In an interview soon after the election, Trump told The Wall Street Journal that Pence will play a big role, handling policy areas, including health care, and serving as a liaison to Congress. Trump noted Pence's friendship with a leader he himself has had a sometimes tense relationship with, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan introduced Pence at the Republican convention.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL RYAN: I've watched this man up close. I've seen what he's made of. Let me tell you something about Mike Pence. This is a man of solid character.

MCCAMMON: Back home in Indiana, Pence is also popular with leading Republicans like State Senator Brandt Hershman, who describes him as genuine and well-liked.

BRANDT HERSHMAN: Mike is a known quantity on the Hill and has a great deal of experience. But I think it speaks more to him as a person.

MCCAMMON: As the majority floor leader in the Indiana State Senate, Hershman watched Pence navigate the controversy over so-called religious freedom legislation. Pence supported the proposal, which was criticized as discriminatory by LGBT advocates. He later caught flak from conservative religious groups for supporting an amendment aimed at toning down some aspects of the bill. Throughout that process, Hershman says, Pence earned a reputation as a good listener.

HERSHMAN: I saw the people going in and out of his office sharing their views. And, obviously, those views were oftentimes very divergent. And I don't think anybody walked out of the office angry with Mike Pence.

MCCAMMON: In the wake of a divisive election, calming tempers on all sides may be a big task for President-elect Donald Trump's right-hand man. Sarah McCammon, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.