Rushville Republican

Columns

April 29, 2014

Personal likability feeds Pence's political ambitions

INDIANAPOLIS — On a shelf in the home office of Gov. Mike Pence are some cowboy spurs and an old pair of riding boots — signs of how the first-term executive and his family relax in their spare time.

Last summer, one of Pence’s daughters cleaned stalls in a horse barn at a state park, performing a humbling but needed public service.

Pence is a rider of motorcycles, too, evidenced by the helmet that also rests on a shelf in his office at the official Governor’s Residence, a lovely 1928 Tudor-style house that he and first lady Karen Pence routinely open for public tours.

Also on those office shelves: Rows and rows of books, including spy thrillers by novelist Tom Clancy and Lewis Lehrman’s “Lincoln at Peoria,” a scholarly look at a lesser-known Lincoln speech that marked the then-candidate’s re-entry into national politics.

Since taking office early last year, Pence has been criticized by the media as too scripted. His reliance on talking points frustrates a Statehouse press corps demanding deeper answers. More than one verbal skirmish has broken out in his Statehouse office.

But his strength — one that may feed the talk of his higher political ambitions — remains his personal likability.

It was evident when he and his wife invited the noisy group of Statehouse reporters to the Governor’s Residence for an informal reception last week.

Relaxed in shirtsleeves, he accompanied us as we peeked into the formal kitchen’s cupboards, surveyed his office shelves, sipped soft drinks on the patio, and enjoyed a spirited tour led by the residence’s official butler, Dexter Powell, who’s served seven first families.

I’d visited the residence before, but it was the first visit to the home for many in our group. For the eight years when Pence’s predecessor was in office, the house wasn’t a home. Gov. Mitch Daniels and his wife never moved in, preferring their private residence instead.

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