Pence finally where he’s always wanted to be

INDIANAPOLIS — After so much work and so long a wait, that moment must have felt good.

There Mike Pence was, on the stage at the Republican National Convention, commanding the attention of the nation, hearing the crowd in Quicken Loans Arena chant:

We like Mike!

We like Mike!

We like Mike!

True, some clouds blocked a bit of this long wished-for moment in the sun – most notably sore loser Ted Cruz refusing to endorse the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and stealing some of the spotlight from Trump’s running mate, Pence.

Still, it was sweet, standing there, hearing the crowd, knowing that all his patience, his resilience, his determination to endure had paid off.

Few could understand how much he’d wanted this, how hard he’d pushed and prodded and prayed for it.

He’d been interested in politics for as long as he could remember, honing his speaking skills, pursuing a legal degree even though he had little interest in practicing law, always looking for his chance.

He first ran for Congress before he was 30. He lost.

He ran again. Lost again, in an embarrassing way.

He became the focus of national attention — and the butt of national jokes — by using campaign funds to pay some of his personal expenses. He tried to retaliate with an attack ad that featured an inept actor trying to portray an Arab. He only ended up looking more foolish.

He regrouped. He renounced negative campaigning and, before long, found a home on conservative talk radio, where he refined the curious mixture of libertarian principles and theocratic policies that became his political philosophy.

He bided his time, building an audience that eventually would become a constituency.

When the seat in Congress he’d tried for before opened again, he was older, more understanding of the importance of communication, more prepared to be the smiling face of a new conservatism, more determined to endure the ups and downs of politics.

He ran again.

And won.

His climb in the Republican ranks of the U.S. House of Representatives was genially relentless. True, he made gaffes — saying a war zone in Iraq was no more dangerous than a farmer’s market in Indiana and comparing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding President Obama’s health care reform package to 9/11 — but he had learned.

He apologized or shrugged it off with an “aw shucks” grin.

And moved forward, becoming adept at keeping a foot in all camps, a friend to social conservatives, acceptable to economic conservatives, supportive of the tea party in its infancy.

People urged him to run for president in 2012, but he’d learned the value of patience. He knew that he lacked executive experience, that Barack Obama with the power of the White House at his disposal would be a tough challenge and that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Hamlet routine — to be or not to be, that is the question—– regarding a presidential run would freeze both Indiana support and money.

It was not his time.

So he ran for governor, even though he had little interest in state issues. He came alive when he talked about Obamacare or immigration or national security — and listlessly recited his talking points when the conversation turned to issues of more local concern.

He made missteps — the proposed state-run news agency, the whole Religious Freedom Restoration Act debacle – and fell hard. Yard signs saying “Pence Must Go” and “Fire Pence” and “Expel Pence” popped up like weeds in a neglected field.

He saw the signs, knew that people counted him out. They had forgotten — or didn’t know — that he’d fallen hard before.

He knew how to get back up.

And that’s what he did, keeping his head, searching for the chance that was always there if you looked hard enough and kept your wits about you. He found it when Donald Trump needed someone to broker peace with mainstream Republicans.

And that brought him here, to this stage, to this moment.

We like Mike!

We like Mike!

We like Mike!

Now, he, Mike Pence — the man who endured jokes and jibes and insults, who survived — is in the national spotlight, a player in presidential politics for at least the next two elections.

Finally, so close to what’s he’s worked for. What he’s prayed for.


John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.