In the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll held yesterday, it was a pay-to-play affair, with potential presidential candidates spending money to buy tickets to the event for their supporters, giving them one vote each. Those who doubt that access to money is an important qualification for a presidential candidate express skepticism about the newsworthiness of the SRLC straw poll, but the event does indicate one important bit of information: Which politicians are considering a presidential run.
Among the contestants yesterday was a member of the House of Representatives whom most Americans have probably not yet even heard of: Mike Pence, Congressman for Indiana’s 6th district. Pence had a small but certain presence at the conference, buying 3 percent of the vote in the straw poll.
The record of presidential candidates from the House of Representatives is not a strong one. However, a presidential campaign by Pence could lead to a vice-presidential candidacy, or a higher profile in Congress. So, the possibility of a Pence for President effort is worth some scrutiny.
Our system of legislative scorecards for the House of Representatives places Representative Pence solidly among the most regressive Republicans in Congress. Unlike many Republicans, Pence has yet to cosponsor or vote for even one piece of significant progressive legislation in the current session of Congress.
The legislation that Congressman Pence has supported suggests that he would not be the sort of President to reach across the aisle. He’s cosponsored a proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent huge numbers of American couples from getting married and supported an effort to overturn Washington D.C.’s local government decision to recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples. Pence has attempted to block economic security for American workers as well, opposing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, choosing to defend wage discrimination and the exclusivity of special lax bankruptcy loopholes that are available only to the wealthiest Americans. Pence also voted against the Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that top executives in corporations that have taken government bailout money don’t receive excessive bonuses while their companies are experiencing financial troubles.
Both socially and economically, Representative Pence stands firmly against efforts to make the USA a more just and equitable nation. His policy positions may help him gain the favor of the corporations and lobbyists who can provide large amounts of money to a nationwide campaign, but whether they will earn him the support of the voters upon which his success must ultimately depend remains to be seen.