A conversation with Mike Pence

Indiana Congressman Mike Pence is due in Iowa this weekend to headline the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s banquet on Saturday night.  Pence spoke with Radio Iowa (me) by telephone early this afternoon.

What will your message be Saturday night?

Pence: “I think our movement wins, Republicans win, when we bring our whole coalition together — people that believe in a strong defense, people that believe in practicing limited government, fiscal responsibility and people that are willing to stand for traditional moral values without apology.”

What happens if the GOP takes control of the U.S. House?  Will there be gridlock?  What do you foresee?

Pence:“Well, what I hope happens if the Republicans are given a second chance at leading the congress is that we will lead boldly.  The reality is that our country is facing a fiscal crisis. We’re going broke. It is imperative that we produce leadership from the congress and ultimately nationally that will confront that with courage and with candor and with solutions that will put us on a pathway toward fiscal solvency and a balanced budget.

“I also believe that it will be imperative that the new congress focus just as much energy on getting our economy moving again, making sure that in the city and on the farm, Americans have more of their own hard-earned resources to invest in ways that will create jobs, so putting our fiscal house in order, creating policies that will open the doors of opportunity to families during this difficult economy and create jobs has to be the first priority and I believe will be the first priority if Republicans are given another opportunity to lead.”

How would you foresee your relationship with the executive?  Will it be confrontational or cooperative?

Pence: “Well, look, I respect the president of the United States. I pray for the president and his family often, but we have separate branches of the government.  You know, it would seem to me in recent years that sometimes, particularly when one party’ s been in control and it was true, i believe, under Democrats in recent years and it was also to some extent true under Republicans, people forget that we have a system of checks and balances, and so I think you’ll see Republicans driving for pro-growth policies, for fiscal responsibility, for a strong national defense and a respect for values. And if that creates a healthy friction with the liberal agenda of this administration, so be it, but it’ll be important for us to practice integrity to our agenda and then allow our constitutional system to work its will.”

I read a lot of stories about the Values Voters Summit. (Background: Pence won the straw poll.)  What did you learn from that event about your party’s yearnings for 2012?

Pence:“Well, what I learned at that event, more than anything else, was happily that activists from around the country are as focused as I am on 2010.  My wife and I were very humbled to be included in the straw poll that was taken and obviously humbled by the result, but as we were in the crowd and we were meeting people, I don’t think there’s any question that everybody knows the job right now is to win back a majority in the congress of the United States for conservative values and the future will take care of itself.”

Let’s talk about the future.  When one gives a speech in Iowa as you are doing this coming weekend, the speculation machine starts up.  Where are you in making a decision about running for president?

Pence:“Well, I was very honored to be invited to come in and speak to the 10th annual Friends & Family banquet.  We’re also going to be campaigning with Brad Zaun who’s running a great campaign against Congressman Boswell and I will tell you that 100 percent of my focus and that of my family and my team is on doing everything that we can to win back the congress of the United States for the common sense and the common values of the broad majority of this country and we haven’t given much thought to other opportunities whether they be in the congress or back home in Indiana or beyond.  I just think this is not just the most important election of our lifetime, I think it’s one of the most important elections in the life of our nation and we’re disciplining ourselves to stay focused there and we’ll look to the future in the future.”

I don’t know enough about Indiana politics to know what you’re referencing there.

Pence:“Well, you know, we’ve been very humbled in the last year.  We were encouraged to consider a run for statewide office.  There’s other folks back home that would like to see us consider serving in another role there and obviously, if Republicans taken over the congress, the fact that I’m in leadership today there may be opportunities there, but all of that I think has to be placed on the   because this election’s not over. Everywhere I go and I’ll say it when I’m in Iowa. I’ll say it when I’m in California this week and throughout the Hoosier State next week: this election is not over.  I know the polls are looking pretty good for Republicans, looking like there’s a good opportunity to win a conservative majority on capitol hill but I’ve been around public life for quite a while and I know that elections can turn on a dime and I think everyone who cherishes the principles of limited government, conservative values, needs to take no other view than that all of us need to stay focused on November 2 and do everything we can to make that a great, great day for freedom.”

Are you concerned about overconfidence?

Pence:“You know, Kay, I have to tell you I tell people all the time that when I’m asked what this election looks like in the battle for control of the congress, I tell them it reminds me of a great play in football.  I say, ‘it’s 4th and goal and we’re going for it and they know it.’  This election’s going to be hard fought.  It’s going to be hard fought in places like Indiana and Iowa where, ultimately, maybe 10 or 15 congressional districts around America are going to decide the fate of the congress and in so many respects, the destiny of the nation from the standpoint of our national policy and so I think it’s absolutely imperative that despite a favorable environment for Republicans, despite some encouraging news in races around the country, I think it’s imperative that people roll their sleeves up, stand with the men and women who are taking a stand for conservative values across Iowa and across America and do everything we can to bring home a victory for conservative values.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.

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