Pence Reflects on Reagan

by Robert Costa

Rep. Mike Pence, the conservative Republican from eastern Indiana, is mulling a presidential run. The movement to draft him is gaining steam: In a letter this week, former Rep. Jim Ryun, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and others urge him to “seize this moment.”

As The Week magazine observes, many on the right see Pence as having a “Reagan quality.” On the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, National Review Online spoke with Pence about the Gipper, asking what his legacy means to him and the GOP.

“Reagan is the reason I’m a Republican,” Pence tells us. “I was active in local Democratic politics when I was a teenager in Columbus, Indiana. Then I started to hear the voice of a B-movie actor, turned governor, turned candidate. He gave voice to the ideals and values that I was raised to believe in.”

Republicans, Pence continues, should learn from how Reagan led. “I think Ronald Reagan personifies both the substance and the style of conservatism in the 21st century,” he says. “On substance, he was tough and unapologetic — he was committed to limited government, to federalism, to a strong national defense, and to traditional values.”

“But on style, he was a gentle man,” Pence says. “I met him in 1988, I sat with him for five or ten minutes in the Blue Room when I was a candidate for Congress. What I was most struck by, in our brief encounter, was his humility and his gentleness. As we go forward, it is imperative that we are tough on policy, but decent to our political opponents.”

Turning to current affairs, Pence says conservatives should not give up on repealing Obamacare. While he acknowledges that the Senate will likely stall the effort, he is hopeful that things could change. “I think that it is a very dynamic environment,” he says. “House passage puts the onus on the Senate. And last time I checked, you’ve got about two dozen members of the Democratic majority in the Senate who are up for election in two years. As the American people engage on this issue, I like our chances.”

In the meantime, Republicans, Pence says, will use the “power of the purse” to block Obamacare’s implementation. “We have a wide variety of legislative tools available.”

As the Journal Gazette reports, “Pence has raised his profile a number of times in recent years — when he was elected chairman of the the House conservative caucus in 2005, when he ran for House minority leader in 2006, and when he won election as House Republican Conference chairman in 2008 to become the third-ranking Republican in the chamber. He left that post after the GOP won control of the chamber in the Nov. 2 election.”

Pence also won a presidential straw poll last year at the Value Voters Summit in Washington.

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