Once Donald Trump made it official on Twitter on Friday that Mike Pence was indeed his vice-presidential pick, other members of the "Class of 2000" — conservatives who joined with Pence — were quick with praise.
“Mike was not only a solid conservative but he was of added value to Republicans as a spokesman,” recalled former Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., now president of the University of North Dakota.
Noting Pence’s background as a popular radio talk-show host in Indianapolis, Kennedy pointed out that “Mike’s ability to explain the positive points of conservative economic policy as well as the cultural conservative agenda were an asset to us.”
Kennedy also recalled to us how Pence challenged House GOP Leader John Boehner for re-election in 2007 and then was elected conference chairman, the third-highest position in the House Republican hierarchy, two years later.
"Had Mike not run for governor in 2012,” he said, “he might easily have become speaker when John Boehner stepped down last year. Remember, Paul Ryan was very reluctant to assume the speakership. Mike would not have been.”
“Mike was a leader and I loved serving with him,” former Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Penn., another Pence classmate, told Newsmax. “He is a gentleman and also not a sexist. He was never dismissive of women or anyone else. And I liked the fact he was strongly pro-life and active in the pro-life movement. He pushed the pro-family agenda strongly when he was chairman of the [conservative] House Republican Study Committee in 2005.”
Now a Pittsburgh attorney, Hart strongly seconded Kennedy’s appraisal of Pence as a great communicator. “He was one of the members who was aggressive about improving our communication to the public,” she said. “He came out of radio, so this came naturally to him.”
Both Kennedy and Hart strongly agreed that Trump would benefit most from Pence’s unassailable standing among conservatives, many of whom had doubts about the candidate’s commitment to social issues. Both also said he would gain votes for the GOP ticket through his campaign speeches and televised debates with Hillary Clinton’s eventual running mate.
Sen. Kirk, far more moderate than Pence, told me “I like and respect Mike Pence.” But this won’t change the mind of Kirk, who faces a difficult re-election battle, about the other half of the Republican ticket. He also told us even after Pence’s selection, “I will not be supporting Donald Trump. He does not have the temperament to serve as our commander in chief."
Only five of the original class are still serving in the House and three have gone on to the Senate: Jeff Flake (Arizona), Mark Kirk (Illinois), and Shelly Moore Capito (West Virginia).
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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