Mike Pence’s political journey, from Cruz backer to Trump’s No. 2

Some say it’s an odd pairing. Others, a good pick to balance the Republican ticket. One thing is certain: Donald Trump and his vice presidential choice, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, don’t see eye-to-eye on a host of issues, from Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims (“offensive,” says Pence) to trade deals like NAFTA. John Yang reports and Judy Woodruff talks to Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The day also brought major news in the presidential campaign:

    Republican Donald Trump confirmed that Indiana Governor Mike Pence will be his running mate. Trump tweeted his decision, but he delayed a formal appearance, citing the attack in Nice.

    John Yang begins our coverage:

  • JOHN YANG:

    The Indiana governor arrived at Trump Tower this afternoon, ready to go.

    GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), Indiana: I'm looking forward to meeting with the Trumps and talking about our plans for tomorrow and every day between now and Election Day.

  • JOHN YANG:

    At first, they seemed unlikely allies: Donald Trump, the brash outsider from New York, who's never held public office, and Mike Pence, staunch Midwestern conservative, with a long career in politics and deep ties to the Republican establishment.

  • GOV. MIKE PENCE:

    I'm not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Less than three months ago, Pence endorsed Trump's opponent in the Indiana primary. Trump won that contest. Cruz dropped out. And Pence threw his support behind the billionaire.

  • GOV. MIKE PENCE:

    We're ready to put a fighter, a builder and a patriot in the Oval Office of the United States of America. We're ready for Donald Trump to be our next president.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Still, differences remain. Pence is a longtime advocate of trade deals like NAFTA. Trump has made opposition to such agreements a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has called the 2003 Iraq invasion a mistake. Pence was a vocal supporter. And Pence came out against Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration, calling the idea offensive and unconstitutional.

    The 57-year-old Pence served six terms in the House and was elected to the leadership. In 2012, he won a close race for governor of Indiana. Last year, he triggered an uproar, signing a bill that could have let business owners discriminate against gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs.

    After big business in the state complained, Pence signed a measure protecting LGBT customers. His selection for the national ticket today drew praise from top Republicans.

  • REINCE PRIEBUS, Chairman, Republican National Committee:

    What I think Mike Pence brings to the table is, he's — I think he's measured. I think he's experienced. I think he, I think, shores up a conservative base that's important. I think that he's a complementary to Donald Trump as far as personality.

  • JOHN YANG:

    And in a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan said: "I can think of no better choice for our vice presidential candidate. He will help bring real change to Washington."

    Trump and Pence will make their first public appearance as the newly minted GOP ticket tomorrow morning in New York.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And joining us now is a reporter who has covered Governor Pence in the Hoosier State, Brandon Smith. He is statehouse bureau chief for Indiana Public Broadcasting. He joins us from Indianapolis.

    Welcome back to the program, Brandon Smith.

    So, how is Governor Mike Pence seen in the state of Indiana by the Republicans, by the people?

  • BRANDON SMITH, Indiana Public Broadcasting:

    I wouldn't say he's as popular as the national folks are making him seem.

    He's been somewhat divisive as a governor. Certainly, he came in on a message of continuing the policies of his predecessor, Mitch Daniels. And that has been a lot of his focus when you talk about his agenda with the legislature.

    But, as was mentioned in that piece, he has dealt with a lot of controversy over the way he has handled certain issues, like the religious freedom debate, like this year the signing of a harsh anti-abortion bill and the way he's handled that and the resistance to that.

    So, he's sort of been divisive, because you look at — Indiana is a pretty conservative state, and yet a Republican governor seeking reelection was in a virtual tie with his Democratic opponent.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What is it about the way he's handled these issues, these controversies that's been a question for him? What's made it controversial?

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    A big part of it is his philosophy, really, as a politician. When he was in Congress and coming into his job as governor here, he was known as a great communicator, a good speechmaker, and certainly someone who stayed on message.

    That's fine in Congress. It didn't work so well when he got to Indiana as governor. He would be asked direct questions by myself and other reporters, more importantly direct follow-up questions asking for specifics for legislative proposals he was pushing or things moving through legislature, for instance, that he would need to sign or not sign, and he simply wouldn't give answers.

    He had his one or two talking points and he stuck to those all the time. He couldn't get — he wouldn't be shaken loose, even when arguably he needed to be. That was seen notably in the middle of the religious freedom controversy. He went on national television to be interviewed about it. And when asked direct questions about whether or not the bill discriminated against the LGBT community, he couldn't answer the yes-or-no question.

    And that's really a big part of what's hurt him as he's tried to be governor.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Brandon Smith, we know Mike Pence is described as a — quote — "reliable conservative."

    How conservative is he? Where do you draw the lines in his — where — what his political views are?

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    Well, he's pretty conservative. Like I mentioned, he signed that anti-abortion bill earlier this year that even a lot of Republican lawmakers in this state advocated strongly against, because they felt it went too far.

    That's something I don't think Mike Pence really balked at all, which endears him to particularly social conservatives, which is part of the reason I think Trump picked him. But you heard in the piece that he supported the Iraq War. He went against President Bush during the No Child Left Behind debate. So he…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, if I could interrupt, he disagreed with Donald Trump on whether Muslims — there should be a Muslim ban in this country.

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    That's true, although he has tried to establish a policy in Indiana where Indiana would deny Syrian refugees from entering the state. So I'm not sure of how much a line he really drew there.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How — everybody is wanting to know what kind of vice president would he be. What about his decision-making? What is known about that?

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    He has a pretty tight inner circle. And his wife, Karen, plays a huge part in that.

    When you see them out in public together holding hands, that's not a political show. They really are very close. And she plays a big role in his life and his decision-making and his policy-making, is the sense. And his inner circle here in Indiana again, as I mentioned, is pretty tight. A lot of his advisers go back to his time as — Congress.

    His first chief of staff had been his chief of staff during his entire congressional time. One of his key advisers as governor now, his communications director, was his communications person in Congress. The sense is that the circle isn't very wide.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    There has been a lot of reporting today, Brandon, about how — quote — "unpredictable" Donald Trump is. And on the other hand, Mike Pence is seen more predictable, a calmer presence. How do you see that?

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    That's absolutely true. It goes back to that idea of his philosophy is, I'm going to have my one or two talking points and I'm going to say those talking points no matter what is asked of me.

    As a vice presidential running mate, that will probably — certainly, as a running mate to Donald Trump, that will probably be very valuable and certainly appealing to national Republicans who are uncomfortable with the unpredictability of Trump's campaign.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now, we know, finally, Brandon, that he — if he hadn't been chosen as Donald Trump's running mate, he was expected to run for reelection as governor. What kind of race was he facing there?

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    A very, very close one. He was facing the same person he ran against for governor in 2012, former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg.

    But while Mike Pence only beat John Gregg by 3 percentage points in 2012, in the polling we have seen in this state, in the limited polling we have seen in this state so far, that looked to be virtually the same, almost a virtual tie, and some pretty unfavorable numbers for a conservative governor in Mike Pence.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Is there any doubt in your mind that Indiana is going — we know it's traditionally gone Republican for president. Any doubt in your mind it's trending in Donald Trump's direction in this election?

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    Absolutely no doubt whatsoever. This state will vote for Donald Trump. I would be shocked if it were even close.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right, Brandon Smith with Indiana Public Broadcasting, thank you very much.

  • BRANDON SMITH:

    Thanks for having me.

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