The Truth About Karen And Mike Pence's Marriage

When Karen Pence sold watercolor paintings in Indiana, Mike Pence helped her set up booths at fairs (via The Cut). When Mike Pence became Governor of Indiana, the married couple installed twin treadmills in the governor's mansion (via The Washington Post). When Pence moved to Washington, having clinched a seat in the House, he installed an antique, red telephone in his office. Only Karen knew the number. 

"Everything we do in public life, we do together," Mike Pence told Indy Star in 2013, "I can't imagine it any other way." The pair, by all accounts, is inseparable. Their relationship dynamics are often paraded around by media outlets as bizarre. Late-night talk show hosts (cue in Stephen Colbert) love reveling in the fact that Mike Pence purportedly calls Karen, "Mother" (via Rolling Stone). You may already know that he refuses to eat alone with a woman who is not his wife. That particular convention led Slate to speculate in 2017 about whether the vice president's "ability work or gain insight from women who aren't Karen Pence" was compromised.

And now it's 2020. Karen Pence has been spotted grooming her looks to become more presidential. Is a 2024 run for president in the works? speculated Vanity Fair, zeroing in on Pence's longer hairdo, and sleeker wardrobe. If so, the couple, and the antique red telephone that's come to symbolize their closeness, might one day be sitting in the Oval Office. Who are they, in partnership, really?  

For Karen and Mike Pence, it was 'love at first sight'

Karen and Mike Pence's beginnings are rooted in their religious convictions. Mike first saw Karen at Indianapolis' St. Thomas Aquinas Church, where Karen played guitar during Mass (via Indy Star). Their first date was tamer than their meet-cute. It involved a taco salad dinner and ice skating, with Karen's sister's kids in tow. 

"It was love at first sight," Karen later reflected in a campaign ad, "we skated around for a little while, then he reached over and took my hand" (via CNN). Eight months later, and Karen had a gold cross engraved with the word "yes." She began carrying it around with her, waiting for the day that Mike would propose (via The Washington Post). He did so, a month later, hiding a ring box in a loaf of bread while feeding ducks.  

The two have been married since 1985. And, in the midst of converting from Catholicism to Evangelicalism in the mid-1990s, the couple has remained deeply religious (via The New York Times). Mike Pence thinks of Karen as the "prayer warrior" of the family (via Rolling Stone). As Ken Blackwell, the then senior domestic policy adviser on the Trump transition team told the Washington Post in 2017, Mike Pence uses his wife, Karen as "a sort of gut check." He consults her on "what they have learned together and come up through together in terms of their shared Christianity."

Karen Pence is Mike Pence's closest advisor

"I'm gonna sleep on it, pray about it and speak to Karen," was what Mike Pence used to say when considering policies as Governor of Indiana (at least according to what an anonymous Pence ally later told CNN). It was "gospel" among Indiana Republicans, reported CNN in 2016, that Karen Pence was Governor Mike Pence's closest confidant. While Karen Pence has publicly denied influencing her husband's policy and legislative decisions, those close to the Pences tell another story. They credit several policies that Mike passed as governor (tax cuts, a Medicaid expansion, and conservative education reforms) to varying degrees of Karen's influence. Karen, The Washington Post suggested, may also be the driving force behind Mike's social conservatism and, in particular, his opposition to gay marriage.

 We have no real notion of how active she's been as an advisor to the vice president since 2017. Publically, she's directed the press to her efforts on art therapy initiatives. Despite this, she's been by Mike Pence's side at many key moments. She was, reports The Post, present at an interview between the vice president and a potential employee. She's joined him on trips abroad, and she's sat in on off-the-record-briefings with news outlets. She's also hired former first lady Barbara Bush's chief of staff, Kristan King Nevins, as her own chief of staff. Nevins' profile has nothing to do with art therapy. She's an ex-CIA employee who once worked on counterproliferation, counterterrorism, and cyberoperations.