Without Columbus native Mike Pence as a running mate, Donald Trump probably would have never won the presidency.
That’s the conclusion of two Republican business owners and long-time friends who were enjoying breakfast Wednesday morning at Scooter’s Family Restaurant.
For the past 20 years, Susan Thayer Fye and Stephen “Pete” Rees have made it a tradition to bring a variety of newspapers to the State Street eatery the morning after every election, so they can analyze the previous night’s results.
“Pence brought enough votes just with the ‘Christian right’ that I think he put Trump over the top,” said Thayer Fye, a rental property owner/manager who was narrowly defeated by incumbent Bartholomew County commissioner Larry Kleinhenz in the May primary.
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“While he brought a lot to the ticket, the biggest thing was that Pence didn’t waiver from his position,” said Rees, owner of Columbus Skateland and former candidate for Bartholomew County assessor. “It seemed like all the other candidates were flipping on and off the issues, but Pence stayed firm.”
Besides his experience as a governor and congressman, Rees and Thayer Fye said Pence’s best contribution to the GOP ticket was as a stabilizing force for the unpredictable president-elect.
As pundits and pollsters appeared on network television Wednesday to explain why many of them were wrong in their predictions, Thayer Fye said it was people like herself – the “regular, stable, down-to-earth taxpayers that never take anything out of the system” — that elected Trump and Pence.
“While so much attention has been given to special groups the last 20 years, we felt ignored,” Thayer Fye said. “We usually don’t complain to others, but the votes for Trump? We just complained. It was an anti-vote that sent the message loud and clear.”
Rees cited the 2008 big bank bailout as an example of a special interest group that received too much attention.
“Nobody saw them bailing out Irwin Union Bank locally,” Rees said. “So it didn’t help the average person in Columbus.”
Rees was referring to a once-prominent bank and trust founded in 1871 that closed in 2009.
The business owners believe increases in health insurance premiums last month affected the election outcome.
“I don’t think (Republicans) want to cut off health care to those who have received it through Obamacare,” Rees said. “But how it’s funded — and how it affects everyone’s rate — is what people are upset about.”
If the GOP Congress decides to revamp the Affordable Care Act, efforts are needed to enroll more young and healthy adults, who often prefer to pay penalties rather than the premiums, Thayer Fye said.
At another booth at Scooters, Darlene Tapscott said she had her own reason for choosing Trump over Clinton.
“They both have a different outlook on everything that has to do with our futures,” Tapscott said. “Trump was the best choice we had.”
The election of Trump reflects a movement that allowed heartland states like Indiana to play a larger role in national policies, said another Scooters customer, Dennis Behrman.
“It’s going to be an interesting four years to watch what they do and how they go about doing it,” Behrman said.
But two other customers — including Behrman’s son, Champ — seemed content talking about their personal connection to a hometown boy-made-good.
Champ Behrman recalled an eighth-grade trip to the nation’s capital where his group received a special tour of Capitol Hill from Pence.
“That was awesome,” he said.
Across the aisle, John Warner, was thinking about the two visits Pence made this year to Columbus Community Church — seated just four pews in front of him.
“I get to say I shook the vice president’s hand twice this year during our church’s meet-and-greet,” Warner said.
And for a day-after election quiz, only folks in Mike Pence’s hometown would know the answer to this one: What is the closest cross street to Skooter’s Family Restaurant?
Pence Calla, of course.