I should have known. As soon as Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as a running mate, he was bound to win. You see, Mike Pence is a Hoosier. "Indiana is the mother of Vice Presidents; home of more second-class men than any other state,” quipped Thomas R. Marshall, of Columbia City, Indiana, who also served as Woodrow Wilson's vice president.
Marshall was exaggerating, but not by much. The Hoosier State has provided the nation with five vice presidents, with a sixth waiting in the wings. There was a good reason for three of them—Indiana was once a swing state. That's hard to imagine now, given that it rarely goes Democratic in national elections, but in the time between the end of Reconstruction and the First World War, when much of the Democratic Party was southern, the state was almost evenly divided between the two parties. Other swing states were Ohio and New York. Because Democrats held “the Solid South” and Republicans controlled New England and the Great Plains, a presidential candidate who carried New York and either Ohio or Indiana would win the presidency. Presidential candidates normally came from New York or Ohio, while Hoosiers were often slated for the second spot. While the first Hoosier VP, Schuyler Colfax, Ulysses S. Grant's first VP, served before the Swing State era, the next three fit the pattern: Thomas Hendricks, who served briefly under Grover Cleveland; Charles W. Fairbanks, William Howard Taft's vice president; and Marshall.
After the First World War, Indiana became solidly Republican, going Democratic only in the landslide elections of 1932, 1936, 1964, and 2008, so it seemed unlikely that the state would produce any more “second class men.” Yet it has. Vice President George H.W. Bush, was not only 64 years old when he received the Republican nomination, but Reagan conservatives suspected him of being too moderate. He needed a younger and more conservative running mate to balance the ticket. Forty-one year-old Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, who had beaten the legendary Senator Birch Bayh in 1980, fit the bill.
And this year the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, had a problem with the Religious Right. Trump may be a Presbyterian, but he isn't terribly religious, as his reference to Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians as “Two Corinthians” demonstrates. The most prominent Evangelical conservative of the 2016 campaign was Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. But Cruz had denounced Trump for insults to his wife and father and had initially refused to support the GOP nominee. Enter Indiana Governor Mike Pence, with sterling evangelical credentials.
In following posts, I'll look at Indiana's vice presidents, beginning with Schuyler “Smiler” Colfax, vice president from 1869 to 1873.