Long in Trump's shadow, Vice President Mike Pence set to emerge
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[October 31, 2020]
By Jeff Mason and Sonya Hepinstall
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Mike
Pence, a Christian conservative and one of the few constants in Donald
Trump's tumultuous White House, has kept his boss's confidence by being
careful never to step out of the president's shadow.
Whether Trump wins or loses the election on Tuesday, that strategy and
status are likely to change. Pence, 61, will be catapulted into a group
of front-runners for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as soon
as the 2020 results are known.
He will do so with the record of a No. 2 who was content to play a
largely behind-the-scenes White House role, eschewing Trump's propensity
for drama and endearing himself to the former
A former governor and U.S. congressman, Pence has been central to some
of the Trump administration's main legislative victories, including tax
cuts passed in 2017.
He also oversaw the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic as head of
the White House Coronavirus Task Force, but that brief - despite being
hailed as a success by the administration - has not gone well.
About 230,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, the
highest death toll for a single country in the world, and the
administration has been widely criticized for undermining health
experts' calls for widespread use of masks and social distancing.
Pence has been a key defender of Trump throughout the tumult of the
pandemic and often battling factions in the White House, maintaining his
own influence by developing a close relationship with the former New
Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, who came down with the coronavirus
himself, said Pence speaks to Trump multiple times a day from morning to
Reducing taxes and regulation, advancing anti-abortion policies, and
transforming the judiciary with conservative judges and Supreme Court
justices are among the policy changes of which Pence is most proud.
As for the pandemic: "I think that he looked at what people had forecast
was possible, lives saved, building up of PPE ... development of a
vaccine and thinks it's a pretty significant accomplishment,” Short
But during their Oct. 7 vice presidential debate, Pence's Democratic
rival Kamala Harris assailed the administration's record on the virus,
saying: "The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure
of any presidential administration in the history of our country."
Pence is always careful to praise Trump and hew to his positions, even
in closed-door meetings when the president is absent. He often says the
job is "the greatest privilege of my life."
Critics say he effectively validates Trump's often erratic behavior by
quietly accepting the president's combative style.
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President Donald Trump accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence
arrives at a campaign rally in Newport News, Virginia, U.S.,
September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
DARLING OF CONSERVATIVES
Trump picked Pence as his 2016 running mate from a list of finalists
that also included former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and
former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
If Pence runs for president in 2024, he could face other Trump
acolytes such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.S.
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in the race for the
What he will not be able to do, and perhaps not want to do, is
separate himself from Trump's agenda.
His style, however, is much different from that of his boss. He is
calm rather than volcanic, and deeply religious.
"I'm a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,"
Pence has said.
Pence has been married to his former schoolteacher wife Karen since
1985. They are both born-again evangelical Christians and have three
The Indiana native is a darling of conservative Republicans for his
opposition to abortion rights and passionate support for
deregulation of business. He has been pivotal to securing Trump
support among those voters.
Pence long advocated for Jerusalem to be recognized as Israel's
capital, which Trump announced over the objections of Arab nations
and many Western allies, in another win for evangelicals.
Pence was instrumental in placing several abortion opponents in key
positions at the Department of Health and Human Services, which has
made several decisions advancing conservative social policies,
including broadening exemptions for employers who cite religious or
moral reasons for refusing to cover birth control, a rule that
upheld by the Supreme Court in July.
He also led the charge for reinstating a policy that requires
foreign non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. funding to
vow not to discuss or perform abortions.
He is often to the right of mainstream America on social issues such
as gay rights. In 2015, as Indiana governor, he was forced to revise
a state "religious liberty" law he had signed that opponents said
allowed discrimination against gay people.
(Writing by Jeff Mason and Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Howard
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