How awful has this election cycle been?
Most of you have a pretty good idea. The two most unlikeable, corrupt candidates from either side managed to make their way to the top of the ticket, and no matter who wins, the nation will be in peril.
In the case of Trump, he ran against some of the best, most conservative, experienced and proven talent in the GOP field and won – even though his whole life is the exact opposite of conservative, experienced, and proven.
In fact, if I were the more cynical sort (and I am), I’d say Trump’s actions for the entirety of his campaign, from start to finish, have been crafted as a massive work, in order to lose the election, while simultaneously gaining a fan base for his next media venture.
The GOP made the choice at the convention in July to go down with the sinking ship. While many stalwarts insisted changing course and rejecting the spray-tanned nightmare would ultimately show a lack of faith in the system and the people who voted for him in the primaries, creating havoc at the polls in November, many others saw corruption and weakness in the party and vowed to hold the line for principle over party.
In short: It’s a mess.
What’s more, Trump seems more determined than ever to throw the election. Not only did he completely bomb the first debate against Hillary Clinton, but only days away from the second debate, reports are that he is no more dedicated to preparing now than he was with the first.
All of this has left Republicans battered and war-weary. It has also left them looking for a party savior – one who could refurbish the Trump tarnished reputation of the GOP and set the flagging ship right, again.
Enter VP pick, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. So desperate to cobble some measure of sanity out of this election are some, and so sure are they that they’ve already lost the White House this year, that they’re looking at Pence’s Tuesday night debate performance and are already sizing him up for 2020, as Joe Cunningham alluded to, earlier.
Over the course of 90 minutes in Tuesday’s vice presidential debate, Pence accomplished what Donald Trump failed to do in front of an audience of 84 million a week prior. With a warm smile and a steady tone, the mild-mannered Midwesterner carefully and methodically built his case against Hillary Clinton, against her running mate Tim Kaine and against the progressive policy package the Democratic duo has relentlessly championed.
In fairness, even Trump could have destroyed the Clinton campaign with facts, had he bothered to prepare, or were he actually serious about winning the election. She is the softest of targets for any reasonably motivated candidate.
What Pence did was plow through 72 annoying interruptions by Senator Tim Kaine, pivoted away from the hard indictments against Trump that Kaine presented, and in spite of a moderator who seemed intent on cutting him off, he managed to shoehorn in some equally damning facts about Clinton and her record.
Because he was able to maintain his composure and forge on, Pence won the debate, easily, at least on style. He also has set himself up for any potential run in the future, as he will be the most closely watched by the same party bosses who forced Trump on us, and may now be struggling with pangs of guilt.
It was an interesting and perhaps unexpected strategy, considering Pence’s primary duty on the campaign trail has been to control the damage when Trump chooses to veer sharply off message. Said Roll Call’s Patricia Murphy in her reaction to the Indiana governor’s performance: “Pence just won the Iowa caucuses.”
“Pence managed his 90-minute career comeback with a combination of a broadcast-quality performance and a shrewd political strategy of not even trying to defend much of the record of his own running mate, Donald Trump,” Murphy wrote Wednesday morning.
Murphy brings up an interesting point. How many will consider Pence “damaged goods” because of his association with Trump?
Pence endorsed Ted Cruz during the primaries, after speaking to both Cruz and Trump, beforehand. It was a limp-wristed endorsement, at best, and he was roundly criticized for it by those who thought he should have been a bit more exuberant. Trump recently crowed that his running mate’s endorsement for Cruz was actually more of an endorsement for him.
That, and his signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana in early 2015, only to buckle under pressure from the left a week later and make “fixes” to the law, have left a stain on his legacy, in some circles.
However, his fiscal policy for the state has worked. In the Cato Institute’s most recent fiscal policy report card for America’s governors, Pence earned an “A” rating, coming in fifth on the list.
This is where I have to insert that the top five governors, as it relates to their tax-and-spend records, and how it has affected the fiscal health of their states, are all Republican. My own state’s Governor Pat McCrory was at number two, behind only Maine’s Governor LePage.
For now, it is beginning to look as if the party brass are losing hope, and are thinking about 2020. Pence’s position on the current ticket, as well as his mature performance in Tuesday’s debate is that one island of sanity in the sea of raw sewage that is a Trump campaign.
“It was as if you suddenly remembered, ‘Oh right, this is what it feels like when you have a candidate who knows how to debate, knows the issues and sounds like a Republican,’” one establishment Republican leader told CNN.
Indeed. And the really sad part is, this could have been achieved with any other candidate in the running, and this election would have already been won, for all intents and purposes.
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