00:49 GMT14 August 2020
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    Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, was chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate in July 2016. Pence, 61, has been a loyal and hard-working Vice President and is due to be on the Republican ticket again in November 2020. But what makes him tick?

    In the last 20 years it has been the received electoral wisdom that a presidential candidate needs to "balance the ticket" when they choose their running mate.

    Barack Obama - who became the first African-American - chose Joe Biden, a mild-mannered member of the white establishment and Biden, who is 78, is reportedly considering Kamala Harris, who would be the first black American woman vice president if elected.

    ​But Donald Trump was having none of it when he chose Mike Pence back in 2016.

    Instead of choosing a Latino, an African-American, a woman, or a moderate, as his running mate, Trump chose another white conservative man.

    Mike Pence was born in Columbus, Indiana, one of six children - his elder brother Greg was elected to Congress in 2018 - to Edward Pence, a Korea War Veteran, and his wife Nancy, who together ran a chain of gas stations.

    ​His grandfather was an Irish Catholic immigrant and the Pence family admired John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

    Pence studied law at Indiana University and was at the time a registered Democrat, who even voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980 when the incumbent was crushed by the Republican Ronald Reagan.

    But in the early 1980s he switched from the Catholic Church to an evangelical Christian faith, and his religious faith also pushed him politically to the right. He met his wife, Karen, at church and after they married in 1985 she bore him three children.

    Pence, then working as an attorney, was by now a Republican and a fan of Reagan  and in 1988 he made his first entry into politics - failing to defeat Democratic congressman Philip Sharp.

    ​In the 1990s “family guy” Pence reinvented himself as a radio talkshow host and described himself as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf."

    On his nationally syndicated radio show he styled himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” and he retained that slogan when he successfully ran for Congress in 2000.

    ​He was on the right wing of the Republican Party in Congress, and in 2010 joined the Tea Party Caucus, which supported low taxation and minimal government interference in business.

    In 2012 he threw his hat in ring for governor and narrowly defeated the Democrat, John Gregg.

    His time as governor was fairly uneventful.

    ​He maintained a predictably conservative agenda and fought a long (and popular) campaign to prevent Syrian refugees from being resettled in Indiana.

    In February 2016, a federal judge ruled he had acted unconstitutionally when he tried to cut off federal funds for a local non-profit refugee resettlement agency after it planned to bring in Syrian migrants.

    ​He also antagonised the LGBT community when he signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which allowed devoutly Christian business owners to refuse to serve gay people.

    The bill was mocked by President Obama who joked that he and Joe Biden were “so close that we can’t get served pizza in some parts of Indiana.”

    ​Pence was seeking re-election as governor and was unopposed in the May 2016 Republican primary.

    So why did Trump choose Pence?

    Niki Kelly, a political journalist in Indiana, claims Trump was visiting potential running mates in the spring of 2016 when his plane broke down and he was forced to spend a few extra hours at the governor’s mansion in Indianapolis.

    Ms Kelly told the BBC: “Karen Pence in her very nice Hoosier way, she goes and gets a coffee cake and cuts some flowers from the garden, and even the Trump kids came over…and now he’s the Vice President.”

    © AP Photo / Mary Altaffer
    Кандидат в президенты от республиканцев Дональд Трамп и кандидат в вице-президенты от республиканцев Майк Пенс во время третьего дня сессии Национального съезда республиканцев в Кливленде, 2016 год

    Whether Pence and his wife simply charmed Trump into offering him the job is not clear, but it has certainly not been a decision which the President has lived to regret.  

    Pence has been staunchly loyal and has played an important role as a lightning conductor and shield for the under-fire President.

    ​It has been claimed that in October 2016 Pence, using his powers as state governor, suppressed a major voter registration drive targeting African-Americans in Indiana, with false claims of "voter fraud".

    Sputnik reported allegations that his state police had raided and shut down the offices of the Indiana Voter Registration Project days before the registration deadline, confiscated computers and cellphones and put out misleading statements.

    In 2017 the Democrats sought to claim Pence had been a back channel used by the Russian government to liaise with Trump during the election campaign.

    ​A spokesman for Pence made it clear he had not met anyone connected to the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign or the transition period.

    In February this year President Trump put Pence in charge of the US government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. In the same announcement Trump said the risk to the US was “very low”.

    ​Trump, who is now 74, said Pence had "got a certain talent for this" but critics pointed out he had mishandled the worst crisis in Indiana’s history in 2015.

    There have been 3.9 million coronavirus cases in the US and 143,000 deaths - far more than any other country - and Pence continues to chair the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, despite being criticised for failing to wear a face mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in April.

    Tags:
    US Election 2020, 2016 US Presidential election, Donald Trump, Mike Pence
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