For the second time in eight years, the Republican nominee for President has chosen a sitting governor as his running mate. Governor Mike Pence of Indiana will join businessman Donald Trump on the 2016 Republican ticket.
While Senator John McCain’s (AZ) selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in 2008 surprised many onlookers, Pence was widely reported to be on Trump’s “short list” for weeks. Still, as we wrote in this space two weeks ago, the selection of a governor as the vice-presidential nominee has not been common in recent years: Palin and Pence are the only two sitting governors to run in the vice-presidential slot on a major party ticket since 1968.
Pence brings significant political experience to the Republican ticket. He has served as governor of Indiana since 2013, when he succeeded popular Republican governor Mitch Daniels. He also has experience in Washington, D.C.; Pence spent 12 years as a member of the House of Representatives.
Pence, however, has faced declining approval ratings in his home state over the past two years and was in the midst of a difficult reelection campaign, a re-match of his three-point 2012 win against former member of the Indiana House of Representatives John Gregg (D). That is now moot: under Indiana law, Pence cannot run for re-election while simultaneously running for federal office.
Indiana, then, will elect a new governor in 2016, ensuring that seven of the 12 gubernatorial races to take place in 2016 will feature open seats. Pence, meanwhile, will try to do what no sitting governor has done since Spiro Agnew (R): be elected vice-president of the United States.*
*Agnew won the vice-presidency as running mate to President Richard Nixon in 1968, while serving as governor of Maryland. He ran for (and won) re-election to the vice-presidency in 1972, but not (of course) as a sitting governor. Former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1959-1973) was appointed vice-president in 1974, making him the most recent person with gubernatorial experience to serve as vice-president. He declined to run in 1976, however, and therefore never appeared on a vice-presidential ballot.