When Mike Pence was first elected to Congress in 2000, Curt Smith served as a general consultant on his campaign. The two men stayed close. So when Curt’s son, Andrew, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the governor started reaching out. “He kept calling: ‘What can I do?’” Smith recalled.
Andrew Smith was a standout center for Butler University, taking his team to two NCAA final fours. He was also a Star Wars fan. So his father thought of something: Could Pence secure a screener of the forthcoming film so his son could see it? Pence made the call. Disney agreed. But Andrew was already too sick to watch it. He died in January.
On Wednesday night, I found Curt Smith sitting on the convention floor, waiting for his friend to accept the Republican nomination for the vice presidency. And other delegates echoed his emphasis on character. “The single most important thing is how good a guy he is,” said Eric Koch, a state representative. “He’s the guy who, if you were going to go on vacation, you’d leave your keys with.” Brenda Goff, who works for Senator Dan Coats, agreed. “He’s an amazing man, with a true and kind heart,” she said.
Pence has acquired a national reputation as a staunch conservative, unafraid to take combative stands—even when they prove unsustainable, and he’s forced to back down. It’s those very public stands that have led his nomination to be embraced by his fellow conservatives. But in interviews with Indiana delegates and academics, a more nuanced picture emerged.