Ladies and gentlemen, the man from Indiana is back in Iowa. Gov. Mike Pence is the first presidential contender to visit the Hawkeye State since South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Pence and Haley headlined an Iowa Young Republicans dinner at the Westin Des Moines on Monday night, a private event attended by several hundred Republican activists, including many of those who will head into state GOP caucuses next year.
Politico was also in the room for the much-anticipated first campaign appearance from the 43-year-old vice president, who checked a list of GOP concerns: James Comey, Planned Parenthood, nukes and Hassan Rouhani. Pence’s turn under the microscope is part of his dual new role as point man for promoting national security, and his stated effort to project a softer edge to a campaign that has often been less than inviting to female voters.
Pence, a former chairman of the National Guard Council, was supportive of Operation Desert Storm and spent 10 years on active duty. He remains a colonel in the Guard, and now heads the Governor’s Task Force on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a position he assumes earlier this year after the murder of a soldier in Afghanistan.