CLEVELAND — Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, who has a weakness for impromptu stops at county fairs, took his future — and still only — wife ice-skating on their first date and is serious enough about his faith that he regularly meets with a small group of men who hold one another accountable to Christian principles.
He has now entered into a political alliance with a man, Donald J. Trump, whose idea of recreation is flying on his Boeing 757 to one of his oceanside golf courses, a man who met his current and third wife at a model-filled fashion week party in Manhattan and who referred last summer to holy communion as the “little wine” and “little cracker.”
By selecting Mr. Pence as his running mate, Mr. Trump has offered an olive branch to restive Christian conservatives in the Republican Party, while leaving little doubt that he will try to win the presidential election in the Midwest. He also signaled to party officials and donors that he was capable of making sober, even conventional decisions.
But Mr. Trump has also forged one of the most sharply dissimilar presidential tickets in modern political history, linking himself to somebody he scarcely knows and whose personality, politics and lifestyle are starkly different from his.
Mr. Pence’s life has been organized around his faith, ideology and political ambition. “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican — in that order,” he is fond of saying with his trademark look-you-in-the-eye earnestness. He handed out essays by Russell Kirk, the influential conservative writer, to his staff at the start of his governorship. He can recite part of a speech President Ronald Reagan delivered in Indianapolis, and he turned deeper toward Christianity after losing his second consecutive congressional race at age 31.
Mr. Trump, who has switched his party registration several times, has pointedly noted to those on his right politically that “this is called the Republican Party, not the conservative party,” unabashedly acknowledged that he gets his policy insight from watching television news programs, and has been unable to name a favorite, or any, passage from Scripture.
Mr. Trump has enjoyed political fortune by belittling his opponents, handing them demeaning nicknames, and even mocking their spouses.
Mr. Pence, on the other hand, so believes in the virtues of civility that he wrote an article, “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he swore off the politics of attack after losing a congressional race. “Negative personal attacks have no place in public life and serve to erode public confidence in our basic institutions of government,” he wrote.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence diverge on some major policy issues. Mr. Pence has described himself as an acolyte of Jack Kemp, the upbeat and inclusive ex-football star and congressman who sought to broaden the reach of the Republican Party. An ardent proponent of the Iraq war, Mr. Pence favors a robust American presence in the world, has been an unapologetic free-trader, and, while serving in Congress, sought an agreement on an overhaul of immigration laws.
I wince a bit at Trump’s decision to tap the somewhat weak-kneed Pence, but I think that it is a savvy choice as Pence has some support from Conservatives, Evangelicals and establishment types. It could possibly lose him a small number of cross-over Democrats, but it also would serve as life insurance for Trump against radical leftists with guns.