Political notebook: Pence speculation

Game of political “Musical Chairs”

If Donald Trump decides to name Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate on the Republicans’ presidential ticket, that will fill one important hole but create others.

State Rep. Milo Smith, who represents Columbus and most of Bartholomew County in the state legislature, said having Pence on the national ticket would have a big impact on the November general election in Indiana.

For example, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma has been reported to have interest in becoming the state Republicans’ gubernatorial candidate should Pence bow out. Seeking the role of governor would mean Bosma would have to give up a re-election bid for state representative and step down as House speaker. In turn, a number of Republicans would vie for the role of speaker.

Smith said he knows three or four prospects who are starting to campaign for the House speaker position. However, Smith, chairman of the Elections and Apportionment Committee, added that he is not, even though some people have urged him to.

“I would consider it if enough people asked me to do it. I’m honored that people think I would be a good speaker, but I’m not seeking it,” Smith said.

‘We have a deep bench’

State Rep. Sean Eberhart, a Republican from Shelbyville who represents northeastern Bartholomew County in the legislature, said the next few weeks will be interesting if Gov. Mike Pence is Donald Trump’s pick for vice president.

“He brings something to the ticket that Trump is missing,” Eberhart said. “Gov. Pence appeals to a different segment of voters.”

Eberhart said Pence brings a lot of government and legislative experience to the ticket. While Trump has a great business background, he doesn’t have the political expertise that Pence can bring, Eberhart said.

And Pence has proven he’s a phenomenal fundraiser and brings even more to the ticket with that, Eberhart said.

Eberhart said he believes the state Republican committee has never before had to pick a new nominee for governor, but there is nothing to worry about.

“We have a deep bench,” he said of Republicans who would be willing to step up to fill Pence’s spot on the ballot. “I don’t have any fears about finding someone to replace the governor.”

Another interesting aspect will be that there would likely have to be another replacement on the ballot for whoever becomes the Republican nominee in Pence’s place, Eberhart said.

“It’s going to be very interesting in the next few weeks to watch this,” he said.

Local vice president would be a first

Selection of Columbus native Mike Pence as a vice presidential candidate would be a historical milestone for the city.

Bartholomew County historian Harry McCawley said Columbus has had a few politicians who have been mentioned as possibilities for a national ticket, former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton among them.

J. Irwin Miller, former chairman and CEO of Cummins, Inc. was featured on the October 1967 cover of Esquire magazine with a headline suggesting that he should be president of the United States, but that was the closest Columbus came to ever having a resident nominated for president, McCawley said.

Pressure intense

Jeff Brown, a close friend of Mike Pence since their high school days in Columbus and former owner of The Republic, said he doesn’t know why anyone would want to run for president, let alone vice president, because of the microscope effect.

“The scrutiny is unbelievable. So you have to have a sense of country and patriotism,” Brown said.

‘Appreciating the man we know as Mike’

Sen. Greg Walker, a Republican representing Columbus in the Indiana legislature, was watching the news Thursday and didn’t know for sure if Gov. Mike Pence would be the vice presidential nominee.

“It’s only because it’s Donald Trump that gives one pause,” he said of the ongoing speculation.

Describing Pence’s possible nomination as a great honor, Walker said he was reminded that sometimes the people we know in our communities don’t get the honor or respect they deserve, because we are so accustomed to their presence among us.

“This shows the gravitas he has as a conservative Republican,” Walker said.

Walker said the selection of a vice president from the crossroads of the country would be a smart move — and Columbus fits the model of being much like a huge portion of the country.

“What a strange season it’s been,” he said of this year’s political developments. “It’s the unexpected twists and turns of politics.”

Kirk Johannesen and Julie McClure, both assistant managing editors for The Republic, contributed to this report.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.