The Indianapolis Star's Matthew Tully on whether fire-breathing conservative Mike Pence can stay calm and focused and, I guess, pragmatic as governor:
I have to say, I have a hard time getting outraged by Pence's decision to focus on the issues that really matter in this race. The Republican seems to understand that, unlike in Congress, where you really don't have to do anything other than speak well or loudly to get noticed, more is expected of a governor. Divisive floor fights over abortion and same-sex marriage are routine in legislative bodies. From a governor, on the other hand, people want to hear about plans to get their kids a better education and themselves a better job.
The question is whether Pence intends to stay focused on the right issues if he is elected. I hope he does, but I must admit to having my doubts. Those issues have without question played an outsized role during his ascension in politics.
Remember, he is a candidate who not too long ago criticized the reasonable suggestion from Gov. Mitch Daniels that politicians temporarily lay off emotionally wrenching debates over social issues in order to better tackle economic and deficit crises. And he is a candidate who, while contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2010, lectured that the GOP must not "ignore the battle being fought over life, marriage and religious liberty."
Democratic candidate John Gregg is pounding Pence on this, telling voters that the promised focus on education and jobs is not what they'll actually get with Pence as governor. Tully takes Gregg to task over the claim:
Gregg is doing a political twist, too, suddenly casting himself, for instance, as the candidate of Planned Parenthood, a group he acknowledges disappointing during his years in the Indiana House. Sensing opportunity among female voters, the staunch abortion opponent, who was rarely accused of being a champion of women's issues in the legislature, is now offering passionate defenses of the nonabortion services Planned Parenthood provides. He is slamming Pence for seeking to defund it.
Like Pence, Gregg has long been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. When asked about the issue this week, however, his campaign sent over a statement saying the candidate preferred to stay focused on the economy and that he believes "divisive social issues take away from that focus."
I agree. But it leads to one crucial question: If Gregg truly believes that, what's his complaint with Pence?
Most governors, I suspect, become somewhat less ideological and somewhat more pragmatic when they take office, especially if they come from a legislative background. Legislatures -- especially Congress but also the General Assembly to a lesser extent -- are arenas where grand ideas get debated. Governor's mansions are places where real problems have to be dealt with. One are where it looks like there will be considerable overlap between Pence's fiery rhetoric of the past and his campaign pledges as a gubernatorial candidate is his passionate fiscal conservatism. Surely that's not a bad thing for Hoosiers.