By Whitney Smith and Robert J. Guttman
July 19, 2016
Home of the Indiana Pacers, Larry Bird, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and apparently a prime picking spot for vice presidential candidates, Indiana has been the home of five vice presidents since 1856, with two others making it onto a ticket, but losing in the general election.
Tea Party conservative, Indiana’s 50th Governor Mike Pence is now included in the state’s Vice-Presidential history after being chosen as Donald Trump’s VP choice this year. Pence, a former congressman from Indiana was Chairman of the House Republican Conference. Governor Pence will add to the list of VP choices from Indiana whether he wins or loses with Trump in the general election in November.
Indiana has the second highest number of vice presidents (5), only ranking below New York, which has had 11 vice presidents, although two of those came before Indiana became a state.
“At one time, Indiana was a swing state and Hoosiers like Schuyler Colfax, Thomas Hendricks, and Charles Fairbanks helped secure it. Indiana State Highway 9 which runs through town is known as Vice-Presidential highway connecting the houses of Quayle and Woodrow Wilson’s VP Thomas Maxwell,” according to the Dan Quayle VP Museum located in Huntington, Indiana.
In 1916, the vice-presidential candidates for the Democrats and the Republicans were both from Indiana, according to the Ft. Wayne News Sentinel.
The first vice president to come from Indiana was Schuyler Colfax. Serving under President Ulysses Grant, Colfax had his eyes set on the presidency from the beginning of his time in politics. As a representative standing in opposition of slavery, Colfax became a founder of the Republican Party and later became Speaker of the House. Colfax became the first Speaker of the House to become vice president in 1869. Although he viewed the vice presidency as a step down from the power he had as Speaker, Colfax viewed the position as an avenue to the presidency and tried to take that avenue by running against President Grant for the Republican nomination in 1872. After losing, he made a grab for another round as vice president which was also denied.
Six years later from an opposing party, but with similar aspirations, Thomas Hendricks became the second vice president from Indiana. The Jacksonian Democrat made the move from representative in the Indiana state house to the U.S. House where he supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act and led the movement to “Black Laws” that promoted segregation. Hendricks was then elected to the Senate where he became a leading Democrat during the Civil War. On his third campaign for governor, Hendricks was elected and faced opposition from a strong Republican majority in the Indiana General Assembly throughout his tenure, leaving without any notable accomplishments. Hendricks was added to Cleveland ticket as a strategy move to win Indiana and died after only 8 months in office.
While the gene containing the strong desire to become president skipped Hendricks, Charles Fairbanks picked it up again. As the leader of rebuilding the Republican Party in Indiana after 1892, Fairbanks gave the keynote address at the convention in which President McKinley was nominated leading to a close relationship between the two men. Fairbanks was elected to the Senate where he stuck to the Republican Party lines and served as a key adviser to McKinley during the Spanish-American War. McKinley appointed him to the Joint-High Commission to decide the U.S.-Canadian border where he said, “I am opposed to the yielding of an inch of United States territory.” To show appreciation for his efforts, Fairbanks, Alaska was named in his honor. Fairbanks made the vice presidential ticket after a failed attempt to block New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt from receiving the nomination. Although he desperately wanted to become president, Fairbanks’ time as vice president was predominantly spent presiding over the Senate, as President Roosevelt did not give him a significant role in the administration. Fairbanks tried to secure the Republican presidential nomination in 1916 where he lost that bid, but won the nomination for the vice president on the unsuccessful ticket of Charles Evan Hughes.
The strategy move that landed Hendricks a spot on the Democratic ticket in 1884 fared well for fellow Hoosier and well-known Democrat Thomas Marshall in 1912. After a term as governor where he supported prohibition and advocated for passage of child labor laws among other left-leaning legislation, Marshall made his way onto the Democratic ticket as a running mate for Woodrow Wilson as Indiana was a swing state crucial to the election. Once in office, Wilson and Marshall has notorious personality and ideological differences, leading to Marshall’s office being moved away from the White House. As Wilson’s health deteriorated during his second term, Marshall was kept in the dark in efforts made by Wilson’s wife and secretary to keep him from acting as president.
The most recent vice president from Indiana, Dan Quayle, is the third youngest vice president in America’s history as he was elected at age 41. With prior experience in appointed positions in the state of Indiana, Quayle was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 and to the U.S. Senate in 1981. Commended for his “energy and enthusiasm” by President Ronald Reagan, Quayle is best remembered for his frequent errors and time spent recovering from misspeaking. Quayle’s tenure was characterized with moments such as “The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history,” “Prime time TV has Murphy Brown – a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman – mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice,’” and correcting a student’s correct spelling of “potato” to “potatoe” at an elementary school spelling bee.
This election season has so far seen the Quayle-like gaffs coming from the top of the GOP ticket from New Yorker Trump, and not newly selected VP choice Hoosier Pence.
Pence would be the sixth Hoosier to become vice president should he and Trump win the general election in November.
Two other Hoosiers have run in the past for VP and been defeated. John W. Kern ran as Democrat William Jennings Bryan running mate and Hoosier William English ran and lost with Democrat Winifield Scott Hancock.
Will history record Hoosier Governor Pence as a winner like Quayle and Fairbanks or a loser like Kern and English? Whichever way it turns out a Hoosier will be in the spotlight, once again, running for vice-president.
Will Pence get trumped or will Hoosier Hysteria win the game?