With time dwindling before the Republican National Convention kicks off, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has emerged as a leading contender to become Donald Trump’s running mate.
Conventional wisdom seems to be that he “rings the most bells” with conservatives, but I think this deserves an asterisk.
Once upon a time, Pence did seem to have all the ingredients to balance a top of the ticket that lacked conservative credentials. As I wrote in 2013, “Pence has all the social conservative bona fides of a Mike Huckabee, but unlike Huckabee, he’s also beloved by fiscal conservatives.”
…But that was 2013. Since then, Pence has done little to enhance his stature with conservatives. In fact, he seems to have demonstrated that he is not, in fact, a wartime consigliere. It probably began when he backtracked on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a move that served to alienate both sides of the political spectrum.
And the impression that Pence lacked toughness and conviction was only reinforced with his extremely milquetoast endorsement of Ted Cruz this April. And, one could assume, that agreeing to serve as Trump’s running mate would only further reinforce this perception.
I’m not alone in making the observation that Pence has lost a lot of credibility among conservatives. Consider the following tweets from two prominent conservatives:
Perhaps it was his complete collapse on Indiana’s religious freedom bill. https://t.co/z3ptOp2ejU
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 11, 2016
RFRA, not running for Senate, not running for president when social cons were begging. Not taking any big risks…. https://t.co/xfBBlE5yc6
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) July 11, 2016
It may be that Pence simply missed his window — that he (like Chris Christie) should have run on a national ticket in 2012. (Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Pence and Christie are both now on Trump’s short list for veep picks.)
But if Donald Trump thinks that picking Pence will be a panacea for his General Election base problems, he might be in for a letdown.
As one reader noted, “For me the RFRA backpedal moved [Pence] from ‘principled’ to ‘just like the rest.’ Not standing up to Trump when he had a chance was the capper.”
Who knows how this will play out, but — for now — it’s probably more likely that Trump drags Pence down than that Pence lifts Trump up.