INDIANA inaugurated Mike "Choirboy" Pence its fiftieth governor earlier this week--apparently we had to--and while I can pretty much swear I'll have nothing nice to say about the man from here on out, I will grant that he gave every impression of a man who was wearing a tuxedo for the second time in his life.
I've lived here most of my life--in my defense, I am congenitally indolent--and Mike Pence is the sort of man I've been expecting to have to survive the governorship of for most of the last forty years. He's a religious huckster with no other discernible qualities. He was essentially ushered into the Governor's mansion by his predecessor--who gave then Lt. Governor Becky "GED" Skillman the same chronic and asymptomatic disease Mark Souder's wife came down with right after Souder was caught dipping into the office help and needed to spend more time with the family--so that Pence wouldn't either a) come back to Indiana and challenge Dick Lugar in last year's primary or b) come back to Indiana and wait out Lugar's last term.
Pence had been the #3 Republican in the House, in case that tells you anything you didn't already know about Republicans in the House, but quit his post after the 2010 elections because the party wasn't mixing enough Religious with its Mania anymore, and said that would be his final term. It's possible, I suppose, that he was self-aware enough to realize that the Jesus game had been played out a couple years earlier. It's possible that he had fixed his eye on the governor's job all along. (Skillman would'a put up less fight than an Italian quartermaster brigade, but running roughshod over the sitting Lt. Governor, who happened to be a woman, might have given some people the wrong impression about the Republican party's gender politics.) The talk at the time was that Pence was planning his own Presidential run, perhaps as a stalking horse for Herman Cain, at a time when Daniels was still milking his own non-candidacy. Then, suddenly, the whole thing arrived like Athena. Or the 2000 candidacy of George W. Bush. Pence suddenly wanted to be governor, Skillman suddenly wanted to be barely ambulatory, and Daniels wanted to tote up some more "campaign" contributions.
Pence's campaign for governor basically consisted of him assuring concerned Hoosiers that he was a practicing heterosexual. As a result he managed to win by 70,000 votes in a state Mitt "Remember Me?" Romney won by a quarter million.
Pence was, of course, hamstrung by the requirement that he continue the pretense that Mitch Daniels had solved all of Indiana's economic problems, with his magic formula (this often felt like something he was required to say because voters believed it, not because he did). So Pence was left to promise to fix the future. Especially with a 10% tax cut.
Which is already chafing the incoming veto-proof Republican General Assembly, which now finds itself walking the line between the Double Super Plus Robust financial shape Daniels left the state in, and what might be called the reality of being a broke shithole that's done no maintenance on anything but Mitch Daniels' image the past eight years.
We can't cut taxes any further without white suburbanites noticing something is up with education. We don't have anything left to sell, though I probably shouldn't say that out loud. Pence's first budget includes the 10% cut, increases education spending, and winds up with a couple billion to add to our "surplus". Which apparently means he found Mitch's old blueprints in a drawer somewhere.
Ain't gonna happen. And Evangelical Mike has between now and next year to okay putting the state's We're Not Recognizing Anybody Else's Homo Marriage Constitutional amendment on the ballot. And this year ain't his first choice.
Like I said: this is the governor I've been preparing myself for since the Nixon administration. But in the interim the country elected Reagan, Hoosiers elected Evan Bayh, and Mitch Daniels became a respected Republican intellectual. Hell, I can do eight years of Pence standing on my head.