Dense Pence

I’ve been told that Mike Pence’s law school nickname was “dense Pence.” Perhaps that was apocryphal–I wasn’t in school with him– but Pence’s entry into the Presidential sweepstakes suggests its appropriateness. 

Allow me a couple of admissions.

I’ve known Pence ever since we were both losing Republican candidates for Congress. I was an occasional “guest” on his call-in show, trying–without much success–to defend those “un-Christian” First Amendment clauses mandating separation of church and state…

By the end of his embarrassing term as Indiana Governor qua Priest, I was the owner of several of those “Pence Must Go” signs that were widely displayed around Indiana prior to Trump’s rescue of Pence’s doomed candidacy for a second term.

So–as these admissions suggest–I’m not a fan.

That said, the media reaction to his Presidential candidacy has largely confirmed my belief that anyone who actually thinks Pence might be the eventual nominee is smoking something, and it’s very strong.

The New York Times polled the paper’s opinion writers. Let me share a few of their responses.

When asked how seriously a Pence candidacy should be taken, Michelle Cottle said: “As seriously as the wet dishrag he impersonated for most of his term as V.P.” Katherine Mangu-Ward contributed: “Mike Pence is a serious person. He is seriously not going to be president.”

Frank Bruni admitted to being  “unsettled by how strongly Pence has always let his deeply conservative version of Christianity inform his policy positions.” Bruni noted that while he deeply respects people of faith,  Pence “makes inadequate distinction between personal theology and public governance.” Bruni was far more polite on that subject than Cottle, who said that Pence “wants to ram his conservative religious views down the nation’s throat.”

Jane Coaston described Pence’s entry as “a candidacy no one wants.”  Michelle Cottle offered backhand praise with “He’s a uniter: Everyone dislikes him.”

Coaston summed up the panel’s verdict: He might be the most uninspiring candidate currently running. (She did say he has great hair.)

Then there’s the Washington Post headline: “Mystery surrounds Mike Pence’s doomed presidential candidacy.”

Having spent the past 2½ years being booed by Republican audiences and mocked on social media, Mike Pence has decided that the American people are finally ready for him. So, with the obligatory period of prayer and contemplation out of the way, the former vice president has officially filed the paperwork to run for president.
There’s no mystery about whether Pence could overcome former president Donald Trump and seize the leadership of his party. The mystery is why he thinks he has any chance at all.

Pence is a photo negative image of contemporary political attractiveness, simultaneously repelling Republicans, Democrats and independents. In his bewildering belief that he might become president, he demonstrates the power of ambition to cloud the mind of even the most experienced politician.

The article describes Pence as someone who “reminds you of a regional manager at a midsize Indiana ball-bearing manufacturer.” And if that description isn’t sufficiently dismissive, the article points out that “there is almost no significant group of voters who does not already dislike Pence for one reason or another.”

In a general election, Pence would offer voters the worst of all possible worlds: an uncharismatic candidate advocating the GOP’s unpopular policies. Voters are not clamoring for someone to tell them why we need to cut taxes for the rich and outlaw abortion, delivered in the tone of a stepdad explaining why you’re being grounded for the rest of the school year….

Other long-shot candidates have something resembling a rationale. Nikki Haley paints herself as the leader of a new generation of conservatives. Tim Scott offers a conservatism that is hard right in substance but kinder and gentler in manner. But Pence — who at some point might have seemed as though he was constructed in a lab to become the GOP nominee (experienced! conservative! devout!) — is now exactly what no one wants.

If elections revolved around policy preferences, no GOP candidate would stand a chance; poll after poll confirms that a majority of Americans soundly reject Republican policies on abortion and guns, its wars on trans children, books and (undefined) “wokeness,” the party’s steadfast refusal to raise taxes on the obscenely rich …

What does appeal to today’s Republican voters is bigotry and White Nationalism. Pence’s original usefulness to Trump and the GOP was his ability to cloak racism, misogyny and homophobia in Christian piety–to pretend that he represented a party that hated the sin but loved the sinner.  

In the intervening years, the GOP has thrown off the cloak, and thus no longer has any use for Pastor Pence. Why he doesn’t understand that is, as the Post says, a mystery.



  1. Mike wants to be your next President because the ole saying goes, “Behind every appalling man is an appalling woman.”

    Mother wants to be a Queen, but she’ll have to wait to find someone less appalling than Mike.

    The good people who stormed the Capitol on 1/6 wanted to hang Mike – should have been a clue to any other thinking man and woman. 😉

  2. “… a regional manager at a midsized Indiana ball-barring manufacturer.”
    I’m still laughing.

  3. When he was coined as ‘America’s dad’ shortly after the election, I wanted to spit up. His head bobbles like those figures on a car’s dashboard and that insipid smile hides his belief that all who do not share his ‘eye of a needle’ Christian belief go to hell as though the very thought delights him. There, that’s out of my system. There were many reasons why women arrived by the van load to fill rooms in the early formation of Women for Change: for some of us it included affirming loudly that there were plenty of people in Indiana who did not embrace Pence. That when he talks about the support of his ‘fellow Hoosiers’ this group was only large enough to fill one’s small back yard.

  4. My front flowerbed is now blooming with three political candidate yard signs; “Joe Hogsett for Mayor”, “For the love of God, Anyone But Trump” and yesterday I added “Pence Must Go”. I saved the Pence sign which I posted while he was still “acting” as our Governor; I never, ever, nor would I ever mean for him to “go” as the Vice President. I really meant for him to go away!

  5. I read somewhere that he may have decided to run just to collect a lot of cash. Can a person run for president and then keep campaign contributions for personal use after losing? At the very least he can still earn money from speaking engagements while fools still think he is somehow relevant.

    Hopefully, he will finally fade into obscurity after 2024.

  6. Pence followed Dan Quayle’s counsel on January 6. Now he should follow Quayle’s example: get out of politics and move to a southwestern state and live in relative obscurity save possibly for a close group of family and friends who still call him “Mr. Vice President” for the rest of his years.

  7. I was in law school with Mike Pence. I interacted with him numerous times. He was a cartoonist when I ran the law school newspaper, the Dictum. I never once heard Pence referred to as “Dense Pence.” Mike Pence was actually a very popular guy in law school. Even the liberal professors and students liked him. Anyone suggesting the moniker “Dense Pence” was used in law school to apply to Pence is engaging in revisionist history. Pence was a very likeable, self-deprecating person in law school.. He had a great sense of humor and people liked being around him. He had tons of conservative and liberal friends. I don’t recall anyone saying he wasn’t smart.

    I know that’s not what liberals want to hear. They want to imagine Mike Pence was always Mike the Terrible from Day One. It just isn’t true.

    Mike Pence’s trouble is that at some point in his political career (although he often talked politics in law school, he showed no interest of wanting to run for office at that time), he decided he was willing to sell out his honor and integrity to pursue his ambition of higher office. I think that point was mid-way through Pence’s congressional career. He went from being a principled conservative who tried to do the right thing to being someone always driven by doing what he thinks he needed to do to get higher office. When you sell out your principles and integrity for higher office, it’s not a good thing.

  8. No one is dense enough to think that Pence could be the winning ticket. I can’t imagine he thinks of himself as a potential president (outside of his dreams). I would guess he is going with the Chris Christie plan – no chance to win, but reminding people he exists so he can land a commentator gig at some “news” channel and sell some books.

    He can’t win, but he can stack cash. Remember, Jesus loves a wealthy man.

  9. David and Goliath. Joshua and Jericoh. Moses parting the sea. When one is called, or thinks they might be, that is enough?

  10. Paul K. Ogden; Charles Manson was also well liked, in prison and out, some of those who liked him are still in prison. People liked Trump and still do but the quality of those who liked Manson and Trump are highly questionable. Steve Goldsmith was quite charismatic and well like enough to fool the general public here but lived with threats against his life throughout his political career and as Mayor he didn’t even go to the restroom from his office without his armed guard. I saw this repeatedly myself as I have to be in and out of the Mayor’s Office. LIke Pence, he wasn’t among the sharpest pencils in the box and, before being elected Maoy he requested the City of Indianapolis change his house numbers so he couldn’t be found by those making threats. I processed the request and the documents changing his house numbers myself. Mayor Bloomberg liked him and made the mistake of believing his lie that his primary residence was in NYC till he was arrested for abusing his wife in their actual primary residence in Washington, D.C. He was allowed to resign his appointment as Deputy Mayor of New York City when it became public he lied about his primary residence being in NYC, as required to serve as Deputy Mayor. I doubt you knew every student in law school and the group you were part of with Pence were of like thinking; water seeks its own level. Your support of Pence shows your support of his religious based laws against women in general and LGBTQs in particular. People also liked Adolph Hitler.

  11. I think the two most salient points from today’s blog are (1) “Mother” being the driving force behind the irrelevance of Mike Pence’s political career, and (2) this Pence thing is a sign of how weak and short the Republican bench of candidates is.

    On Earth 1, how can a soon-to-be indicted and prosecuted criminal be leading the field for President? Nikki Haley is a total fraud beginning with her anglicized name and idiot-level statements about trans athletes. Chris Christie is smart, but is just there to sabotage Trump. Any more words attached to DeSantis should come with a PG-14 warning.

    Short bench. Lousy “policies”. Stupid candidates. Drooling supporters. What could possibly go wrong?

  12. I think you underestimate the chaos of GOP politics. With a base so stupid, anything could happen. He knows that.

  13. Thank God! Mike Pence is running for President! I was afraid my Parkinson’s had moved into the hallucinogenic stage. I told my neurologist that I was praying for good hallucinations and that would have been off the scale for horrifying.

    Let’s all agree that he does have good hair. Just look at the fly that didn’t want to leave.

  14. Over It – so true. Even the republicans didn’t think he would win the nomination back in 2016. It’s all about having a president the oligarchs can manipulate.

  15. Great post, needed to be written, somebody had to do it … But, (As they sometimes do.) the comments above explore and amplify the cause of the original writing. All biases displayed; truths being shared; facts coming to light; opinions confirming, each in their own way, the central point: agreement with the thrust of the post.

  16. The blog today and number and energy of comments are very sad. What if it had been used to do something positive? That is a real problem in our culture today of anger/sarcasm/divisiveness. No wonder the authoritarians just step over it and take over. Just sayin’…

    Pence is just a tarnished object for you to obsess over.

  17. Vernon; you left out “knuckle dragging” in your last paragraph. Otherwise, KUDOS!

  18. “ who said that Pence “wants to ram his conservative religious views down the nation’s throat.””. That is the reason I would NOT give Pence another term as governor . My religion is my business and the government has no right to stick their nose into my religious believes. As a part time resident of Florida, you don’t want DeSantis either

  19. As former publisher of The Word, the LGBT newspaper, I can only confess that as usual Sheila is 100% correct in her assessment. I also will say as Pence was governor when I was writing in Indiana that I’d sometimes “accidentally” typo his name and refer to him as “Governor Penis”. Why? Because “Pence” and “Penis” look almost alike in print and because, well, to gays and lesbians the right wing governor was and is a penis… or more bluntly a dick. These days I live in very blue Maine where telling that Pence story always gets me huge laughs, which is after all what he is: a joke. Happily the country is laughing AT him, not WITH him.

  20. Lester. You make negative comments, especially about young people, on a regular basis. Pot calling kettle black?

  21. Dirk,Im sure theres money to be had,for someone/thing after the primary. if not fodder for the
    think tanks.

  22. My suspicion is that Pence is truly delusional. I think he really believes his god is on his side and will help him win.

    I also think the delusion causes him to not understand how he is perceived by others. It’s not an issue of grooming or handsomeness, there is just something _odd_ about him. When I see him, I actually feel uncomfortable, like I’m viewing something that’s trying hard to appear human, but not quite succeeding.

  23. Sharon – WADR – I spend most of my time/energy actually WORKING to elect servant leaders, especially to the US House – WORKING, not ranting. We all have only so much time/energy, why not use it positively? IMHO our polarization is greatly fueled by ranting on both sides.

    My concerns about young people are not aimed at individuals…

  24. Aside from the real possibility that Pence is as dense as a piece of granite, and can not see any further than such a thing,
    there remains the possibility, that he has taken a page from Newt the Ging-thing, and is running for the sake of the money
    his campaign might drum up, which, if unspent, becomes his very own, as I understand it.
    Beyond that there is the chance that his public career is quite over, unless some little fleabit town wants him for mayor.
    A part of me is watching the entry of still more would-be GOP candidates with some glee, hoping that they will chew and spit the
    heck out of each other until the Dems retake the house, improve their standing in the senate, and give Biden a 2nd term.
    No, JoAnn, there is no viable 3rd party…please don’t go to “Anybody but Biden.” Nader is responsible for GWB!

  25. When the “Pence Must Go” signs started popping up across central Indiana, I was horrified when he went, right off to the Trump ticket. Luckily as VP, he had little power or responsibility and at the same time he was too ambitious with too much ego to see how he was just being used.

    He may have been likable, but I’v met several really nice, kind, and likable people that seem great right up until they ask you, “Have you been Saved?”.

    I’ve also worked a guy that was of the same conservative christian bent as Pence and who was a genuinely nice guy, but possessed zero ability for any logical thinking and at the same time was had an huge ego. It was a strange combination of a person that functioned well enough in a structured environment, thought highly of himself and his job skills, but was totally lost when it came to critical thinking skills. I think one of the reasons he had latched onto the fundamentalist christian church, is that he got the structure he needed to move forward in life. But if Pence had the same combination of personality traits that this guy did, I can see where “Dense Pence” came from.

    My former co-worker had other things in common with Pence. At the time I thought it was one of the strangest things, that he would never go out to lunch if there were any female co-workers present. He had alway said that his wife insisted upon it. It was strangely fawning and misogynistic at the same time.

  26. In Jane Mayer’s expose “Dark Money” it’s revealed the immense support Pence gets from Koch’s and like-minded and monied sources. In Mayer’s later articles for the “New Yorker” she revealed Pence’s questionable silence and non-action regarding Trump’s 2016 transition team with ties to Russian monies. Other’s implicated in that episode General Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone were indicted and found guilty, but later pardoned by Trump. Recently, during his rally’s Trump has been saying Pence is a good man. Possibly a deal’s being made: Trump throw his support to Pence in exchange for a pardon, if he wins?

  27. I am a graduate of the same law school Pence and Paul attended, though I was there long before either of them showed up for the torts and contracts grind. I can totally ignore Pence’s to the right of Jesus religious views and mother complex and still be very opposed to his candidacy, like his pious stand for more taxes for the poor and less for the rich, for example.

    Pence with the inconsistent application of his view of political morality and service to a modern day irreligious libertine who makes Richard Nixon and Benedict Arnold look like Boy Scouts with his attempt to stay in power, the stuff Central American despots and wannabes used to do on otherwise lazy weekends with a new dictator and a preprinted constitution already in hand for their week, has committed an unforgivable sin. He has failed to report treason.

    My interpretation of patriotism in such an instance would have been to call the appropriate authority and squealed – for my country – while going ahead to install the will of the people as constitutionally required. I don’t think we should congratulate people who perform a duty they were already under a non-delegable duty to perform, like, inter alia, stopping at red lights.

    So Pence presided over the transfer of power per the Constitution? I stop at red lights.

  28. Well, Pence has a CNN townhall tonight so you can see for yourself his platform for running for President. I’m convinced he will say an abortion ban should be nationwide with no exceptions for the life of the woman. Carry that rapist’s baby to term even if the stress kills you. Pastor Pence is the worst of the worst Hoosier daddies. He can lie through his teeth and give a slight smirk just for points. He may be a likable guy to his Christian friends and family but we all know he’s a snake. Just go back a few years to see Pence stand behind 45 with his adorable tilt of the head while the potus lied through his teeth. It was sickening that Pence never once dismissed the lies that caused hundreds of thousands of covid deaths. How could you forget his role as Chief Covid officer? Or whatever the title was. Follow the Money. He doesn’t have a chance and should disappear like Quayle.

  29. I have no idea what Mike Pence’s IQ is, but he is certainly dense in his inability to grasp the danger in letting religion run the government. That can only lead to religious war, especially in a country that has historically experienced (mostly) religious freedom. Can he even imagine how he would feel if he were forced to live according to Islamic law or any doctrine other than his brand of Christianity? I suspect he has never given it a moment’s thought.

  30. I have it on good authority that while an undergrad at Hanover College, Pence made no bones that he wanted to be President of the United States. That was long before he met “mother.” After his conversation to Evangelical Christianity (also, during college), it appears this ambition has been his driving force. God save us if he is elected to this high office.

  31. An acquaintance from Hanover College told me the same thing about Pence’s political aspirations as well as that he was a good student there.

    Apparently he became overly cautious about exposing himself to political criticisms he felt he couldn’t handle. His congressional campaigns were mostly devoid of substance, with campaign ads making such ‘bold’ statements as supporting our flag. He does appear dense when trying to make conversation with those whose political persuasions are unknown to him or whose opinions he knows are different than his. He has difficulty making small talk or engaging in any real give and take on issues. That can be taken as intellectual deficiency or lack of confidence in one’s own intellect or an excess of caution or political timidity or disdain for his listeners or all the above.

    The measure of his political ambition because evident when his Christian zeal took second place to joining the ticket with a proud adulterer who owned casinos, was sued multiple times for failure to honor contractual agreements, who said he’d never asked for forgiveness, who thought our soldiers who gave their lives or were POWs were losers,
    and who believed the word of a Communist dictator over our own military and intelligence professionals.

    It took a presidential loser with the chutzpah to overturn the will of the voters nationwide to shake Pence out of Trump adoration. I’m very glad he emerged from Trump’s cocoon once, but where was his Christian faith the previous 4 years, especially when Trump was endangering lives in the White House and across the nation during COVID? Pro-life NOT.

  32. As a certified unrepentant bleeding-heart liberal, I have no problems with Paul’s assessment of Pence. I don’t need to believe every bad thing said about someone, nor make things up. “Hating on” their opponents is a MAGA trait. I am more interested in the truth, if and when it can be ascertained.

    That being said, I do not care whether Pence is an idiot, delusional, or has alternative motives, like money and/or extending his moments of fame. Pence will not win the nomination, and it is good that he will never be President, or likely hold any other office again, but that opinion seems to have been the point of almost all (or every one) of the many comments today.

  33. It occurred to me while I read these comments, to recall one of the greatest movie lines ever. I do apologize for quoting a movie line, so bear with me just this once. It fits Mike Pence like a hand in a glove. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were George and Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a dark comedy. They sniped at each other constantly. At one point in the movie, Martha looks at George and says, “If you existed, you’d be a zero!” Is that the perfect description of Pence or what?

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