Donald Trump’s political judgment has been discomforting at times.
And unfortunately he has an inclination to promulgate these missteps on Twitter at early hours of the morning, just in time to be incorporated into that day’s news cycle.
But if there was one call that Trump made that has been a big source of reassurance was his ultimate pick for vice-president.
Indiana governor Mike Pence surpassed all expectations during his convention address back in July and this past week’s vice-presidential debate.
His debate victory represented the latest milestone in a personal political rally for a man whose only brush with national exposure prior to joining the Republican ticket was a state issue that ended badly for both Pence and social conservatives.
After the 2015 Pence endured, it’s a wonder that the Republican governor was on the stage at all.
Pence was one of a select number of credible conservative candidates who were being recruited to run for president in 2012. Distrustful of Mitt Romney’s positions and ability to win a general election, the then-congressman was considered one of the top grassroots conservative options to challenge the former Massachusetts governor.
But like a host of other conservatives of profile, Pence punted and ran for governor instead. That decision almost proved politically fatal when the issue of religious liberty landed on his doorstep last year.
After the bill protecting businesses from being obligated to provide services that ran counter to their faith passed and Pence signed it, an uproar ignited, with companies threatening to halt investment in Indiana. Even Dungeons and Dragons players got in on the outrage, threatening to pull the annual Gen Con event out of Indianapolis.
NASCAR and the NCAA also voiced their displeasure.
The Indianapolis Star published their fatwa, declaring a state crisis under the headline FIX THIS NOW!
Pence had steadfastly defended the legislation and criticized the media and political left’s misinformation and hysterics over it but at the end of the day relented to the pressure and hastily cobbled together “a fix”.
While tempers cooled in Indiana, the cultural left claimed a victory that they leveraged in similar battles in other states while Pence’s standing amongst conservatives plummeted. Unlike the eve of the 2012 primaries, there was no groundswell for a Pence run going into 2016.
Desperate to hold on to the job he held, Pence focused his energies on a tough re-election. However Pence did get behind Texas US Senator Ted Cruz in his state’s primary, a risky play as his gubernatorial election was later in the year.
With the momentum breaking towards Trump, many conservatives appreciated Pence’s willingness to make a bold move in light of the shellacking Cruz received in the Acela northeast primaries.
After Trump essentially locked up the GOP nomination in the Hoosier State, Pence went back to the parochial campaign grind until Trump invited him on to the ticket the last day the GOP could swap out gubernatorial nominees.
As the billionaire’s “first hire,” Pence’s presence has been the most reassuring sign that a Trump White House would be more conservative than expected.
The real test for Pence would be the debates. Was the Indiana governor the right choice?
Deployed into a situation where he needed to field questions not only about himself but the bombastic top half of the ticket, Pence shined.
Pence also deftly handled a shameless adversary and a moderator whose management of the debate could be fairly described as inept and partisan.
Pence came off as calm, measured, confident, informed, and mature.
While Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine was trying to cram a bucket of flat internet memes during his allotted and once that ran out, pirated, speaking time, Pence effectively communicated critiques about the other side, from the tax increases they are pushing to the disdain Hillary Clinton evidently holds for tens of millions of Americans.
Pence is the one person listed on a major party’s ticket who has acted like a president during a debate.
Certainly not the cackling pant-suited Democratic nominee who invoked the name “Miss Piggy” into a presidential debate.
And regrettably not the Republican nominee who furiously charged after the “Muppet” sling down a rabbit hole and through the Twitter-sphere and morning news show.
In his assignment to “do no harm,” Kaine acted more like a person of interest with all of the clown disturbances happening across the country.
If Kaine’s one assignment was to help make the struggling Democratic ticket more likable, then he failed.
Of course they say running mates and vice-presidential debates do not matter (though curiously not as much in 1988).
People after all don’t go to the polls to vote for vice-president.
After Kaine’s performance, the Democrats better hope not.