The veep nominee wasn’t the most bookish student. He got mostly Cs at Columbus North High School, and it took him two tries to get into the Indiana University School of Law, which he found a bit of a trial. “I wouldn’t wish (law school) on a dog I didn’t like,” he once told the Indianapolis Business Journal, with a laugh.
But he’s a much better speaker. Undergrad classmates at Hanover College chose Pence to give their commencement address. Small wonder—as a high schooler, in 1977, he’d finished second in the nation in the National Forensic League’s extemporaneous category. That’s the one where you draw a topic at random and have just 30 minutes to prepare to sound halfway intelligent.
He voted for Jimmy Carter. Pence grew up in a family of Irish-Catholic Democrats, and even served as the youth coordinator for a Democrat judge’s campaign in 1975. The turning point came the day after he pulled the lever for the Peanut Farmer in 1980. A professor spent a class period challenging students’ assumptions and showed him “that Reagan wasn’t a vacuous movie star,” Pence said later.
He was almost “Father Pence.” The Indiana guv applied to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., thinking he might become a priest. Turned out, political life was more his speed.
He met his wife, Karen, in a parking lot. Okay, that it was outside of a church—St. Thomas Aquinas, in midtown Indy—makes that fact a little classier.
It took five years to conceive his first child, Mike Jr. That’s what Pence told the IBJ in 1991, when Karen was six months pregnant with their son. Pence, then 32, added that as a result, “I just don’t have any interest in running for office in the foreseeable future.” Today, the Pence family includes adult kids Michael, Charlotte, and Audrey.
Appropriately enough, he’s a fan of Dad rock. “He likes The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn—what he loves is Americana,” says longtime friend Tom Rose, a conservative radio-show host. “He likes to like what his people like.”
He hung a Hoosiers poster in his D.C. congressional office. Signed by Bobby Plump, no less.
Pence is a man of, um, simple tastes. People laughed when the newly minted VP pick took his family to a Chili’s in the New York area to celebrate, but hey—the guy’s true to himself. Acapulco Joe’s. Pizza night at home. “The greasier the food, the more he loves it,” says Rose.
No booze, please. Coke—or coffee with Splenda—is Pence’s poison of choice.
Dinner with one person from history? That would be Jesus Christ, this “evangelical Catholic” once told The Indianapolis Star.
Pence is more like Bill Clinton than either one probably realizes. Clinton was famous for making you feel like the only person in the room while he was talking to you; Pence has that gift, too, says Rose. “The world is filled with people who think they’re his best friend,” he says. “That’s his great strength.”
He’s really good at doing impressions. Specialties include Rush Limbaugh, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
Favorite movie ever? The Wizard of Oz.