Michael Barbaro and Monica Davey report for The New York Times: “Leslie Lenkowsky, a former professor at Indiana University who has known Mr. Pence for 20 years, said that in an age of business-minded governors who deliberately avoid touchy social issues, "Mike sees himself as a champion of a very culturally conservative set of values that represent small-town Middle America." . . . His conservatism, friends said, is firmly rooted in his Indiana childhood, a postcard from a tranquil Midwest of the 1960s. The son of a gas station manager, he was a quiet altar boy whose favorite childhood memory was playing in a neighborhood creek.”
As a talk-radio show host in 1998, "Long after government regulators had confirmed the lethal consequences of cigarette smoking, Mike Pence mocked their warnings as 'hysteria'," the reporters write. "And long after Republicans’ war on big government was fading, [Congressman] Pence defiantly opposed his own party over the creation of signature programs like No Child Left Behind and a Medicare prescription drug benefit. . . . He is so abstemious that he once declared that to avoid temptation, he would never appear anywhere alcohol was served unless his wife was with him. This has earned Mr. Pence, 57, both the admiration of Republican voters who identify with his homespun manner and the frustration of outsiders who see him as a dangerous anachronism."
Many small-town folks would describe themselves as Pence typically does: “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” The reporters note, "Those animating forces were at the center of the most consequential – and controversial – decision Mr. Pence made as governor: signing a 2015 law that could have made it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples just as same-sex marriage was spreading across the country. The national firestorm generated by the law was so fierce that sports leagues, trade groups and technology companies threatened to boycott Mr. Pence’s state, forcing him to revise the law in a compromise that infuriated both sides of the debate."
Trump's selection of Pence was cheered by agriculture interests. “He is truly agriculture's dream candidate,” Don Villwock, who recently retired after more than a decade as president of the Indiana Farm Bureau, told Agri-Pulse in an email. National Cattlemen's Beef Association lobbyist Colin Woodall told Oklahoma Farm Report that when Pence was on the House Agriculture Committee, “He was very engaged and willing to help us on several things. We're encouraged it's somebody [with] their hand on the pulse of agriculture and … really probably knows what end of the cow does what.”
The biggest gap between Trump and Pence may be on trade," Spencer Chase reports for Agri-Pulse. "Pence has been a strong supporter of trade agreements, voting in favor of the Korean Free Trade Agreement in 2011 and the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement. In April of 2015, Pence sent a letter to Indiana's congressional delegation urging them to support trade promotion authority, which gives a president the authority to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to Congress for an amendment-free, up or down vote. TPA has since been approved, and the administration has wrapped up negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with Pacific Rim countries. The administration is also in the process of negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union."