And it’s not just that they’re both from Indiana.
But while they’re polar opposites on many policies, and have publicly debated each other on how their strong Christian faiths differently inform their views, they share temperaments, some family traits and even some approaches to religion.
“There are all these weird parallels,” Buttigieg told New York Magazine in February.
Here’s a look at the parallels.
For years, Pence has been the conservative who delivers his message with a smile.
“Let’s be cheerful partisans and happy warriors,” he said in a 2015 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Buttigieg offered the same advice when he ran unsuccessfully to head the Democratic National Committee in 2017.
“We want to make sure we’re not only raising our voices in opposition but also establishing a movement that people would want to be proud of,” he said of what he also called his “happy warrior” approach.
As Buttigieg has continued that style in his presidential campaign, the similarities caught the attention of Mitch Harper, a member of the Indiana GOP’s leadership.
“He seems to have something in common with Mike Pence. And it’s the flipside,” Harper said. “You know how Mike Pence says, 'I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad about it? I think Pete Buttigieg can say, `I’m a progressive, but I’m not mad about it.’”
Pence, who is extremely proud of his Irish roots, frequently talks about his maternal grandfather’s immigration to the United States in 1919. If his grandfather could see him now, Pence likes to say, he would not only be “very surprised,” but would know he was right to come.
“This is a country where anybody can be anybody,” Pence told a group of Hispanic business owners in March. “If you work hard and play by the rules, and keep your promises, you can live the American Dream.”
As much as Pence wears his Irish heritage on his sleeve, Buttigieg’s unusual name immediately raises the question of his genealogy. As hard as it is for many Americans to pronounce, Buttigieg is one of the most common last names in Malta, where his father was from. Joseph Buttigieg, who died in January, came to the United States in the 1970s to pursue his doctorate and later became an English professor at the University of Notre Dame.
“My father chose to become an American, after immigrating here because of the educational opportunities no other countries could provide,” Buttigieg wrote to his supporters after his dad’s death. “He loved this country but also hated to see it fall short of its values and wanted it to constantly become better than it was.”
Both also got the same start in religion – as baptized Catholics. But both now practice other faiths. Buttigieg is Episcopalian. Pence is an evangelical Christian.
Pence, a former altar boy and parish youth minister, has said that his Catholic upbringing helped shape him and “continues to serve me.”
During his eight years of parochial school, Sister Sharon Bierman encouraged Pence to enter speech competitions, developing early the public speaking skills that would be part of the foundation of his public and political life. And throughout his political career, Pence has been outspoken on some issues important to the Catholic Church, particularly his opposition to abortion.
Buttigieg went to a Catholic high school where he said was taught not only “church doctrine on matters like sexuality and abortion, but also to understand the history of the Church as a voice for the oppressed and downtrodden.” He headed the school’s small chapter of Amnesty International, an experience that contributed to his wanting to get involved in politics more directly.
“What really happened in high school was just a formation in social conscious,” he told IndyStar in 2017.
Both men studied history in college and were intrigued by the intersection of religion and politics.
At Hanover College, Pence wrote his senior thesis on “The Religious Expressions of Abraham Lincoln.”
“Pence admired Lincoln’s presidency but was curious about why the sixteenth president, a man raised in a log cabin in Southern Indiana, was never baptized, never received communion, and never joined a church,” wrote biographer Andrea Neal in “Pence: The Path to Power.”
Majoring in Harvard University’s program in History and Literature, Buttigieg wrote his thesis on a speech by a Puritan minister. Samuel Danforth spoke about America’s civilizing missions to make the “wild and savage lands” of the New World more like the image of heaven on earth.
In his memoir, Buttigieg describes his thesis as drawing a line from Danforth’s thinking to America’s Cold War insistence on invading Vietnam to “save” it from godless Communism.
The idea that the first shall be last and the last shall be first is central to how both men say their faith should be put into practice.
Pence has spread the servant leader philosophy when he’s spoken to young people over the years, including in commencement addresses since becoming vice president.
“Servant leadership, not selfish ambition, must be the animating force of the career that lies before you,” Pence told the 2017 graduates of Pennsylvania’s Grove City College. “For it’s written, whoever would be first of all must be servant of all.”
Buttigieg has questioned whether Pence has a “different understanding of Christianity than I do” because of Pence’s support for what Buttigieg has called the “porn star presidency.”
Yet, Buttigieg also uses the term “servant leadership” to describe his philosophy of trying to follow Christ’s example of humble service, epitomized by Christ’s washing the feet of his apostles.
“To me, faith is largely about humility, it’s about humbling yourself in the service of others,” Buttigieg told ABC’s “The View.” “And that’s a sense of servant leadership. I think it’s something we need a lot more of."
Losing their fathers
Buttigieg’s father died of cancer just as his son was launching an exploratory presidential bid.
“He was proud. It was one of the last things we talked about,” Buttigieg said on The View days later. “I’m here because I knew he would want me to be.”
We love you, Dad.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) January 27, 2019
Pence’s father, who was vice president of Keil Brothers Oil and ran a string of gas stations, died of a cardiac arrest during his son’s first congressional campaign in 1988. His dad had grilled Pence about why, at age 29, he was taking on an established incumbent. But Ed Pence eventually became a big supporter, and helped introduce Pence to people in the business community.
After his father’s untimely death at 58, Pence was asked by his campaign treasurer if he wanted to drop out of the longshot race – which he ultimately did not win.
“Pence slowly looked up at his old friend, his jaw tight with determination,” Neal wrote in her biography. “`Dad didn’t raise a quitter.’”
Pence’s wife, Karen, is a teacher as is Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten.
Karen Pence teaches art at a Christian school in Virginia, the same school where she taught when her husband served in Congress. (Her return this year drew criticism because of the school’s policy of not allowing gay students or teachers.)
Chasten Buttigieg taught humanities and drama at a private Montessori school in Indiana before taking a leave to join his husband on the campaign trail.
At times, both families have nearly been upstaged by their pets. The Buttigieg’s have two rescue dogs, Buddy and Truman, who have a heavy social media presence. Two of the colors in Buttigieg’s online design logo kit – which supporters are invited to customize – are inspired by the dogs: Buddy Gold and Truman Brown.
The Pences have a dog, Harley, and a cat, Hazel, names that both start with the letter “H” because the Secret Service code name for the vice president is “Hoosier” and his wife’s is “Hummingbird.”
“We’re just pet people,” Karen Pence told USA TODAY in a 2018 an interview as Hazel, prowled around the sunroom of the Queen Anne-style house located on the grounds of the Naval Observatory. “We’ll always have some kind of pet.”
The pet that’s gotten the most attention is their daughter Charlotte’s rabbit, Marlon Bundo, otherwise known as BOTUS for Bunny of the United States. In addition to having his own Instagram account, Marlon Bundo is the star of children’s books written by Charlotte and illustrated by Karen.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The 'weird parallels' between Vice President Mike Pence and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg