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Mike Pence: A heartbeat away from the Presidency (photo: Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0)


If the stories are accurate, Donald Trump had last-minute doubts about Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana and the person he’d just chosen as his running mate. If so, those doubts said more about Trump than Pence. The Donald would probably have preferred someone from his comfort zone: maybe Newt Gingrich, an eccentric whose glory days were decades ago, or New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a star eclipsed by scandal. He knew them reasonably well and, more importantly, understood that their last best hope of political advancement rested with him. They would know their place.

But Pence looked dangerously like his own man, an outsider foisted on Trump to reassure traditional Republicans and to bring decorum and a credible political track record to a ticket desperately short of both. To be sure, Pence faced a tough re-election fight for the governorship (which in the end he would have probably won), but he had also served six terms in Congress and had been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate for years. He had no need to jump aboard a Trump train only uncertainly connected to the rails. Worse, Pence had endorsed Ted Cruz and reportedly loathed The Donald. The Indiana governor denied that he felt that way, but it was hard to imagine a meeting of minds between a self-described “Christian . . . conservative and . . . Republican, in that order” and a chancer of no fixed party married to Ivana, Marla and Melania, in that order.

The Pence pick was enthusiastically received by GOP loyalists, and, however appalled they were by his hardline social — and not just social — conservativism, even the party’s opponents seemed somewhat soothed by the thought that, in the not-going-to-happen event of a Trump win, at least one pro would be in the new president’s vicinity. If there was a consensus, it was that Pence was a touch dull. There were mutterings too that he was not the brightest. Some of the latter can be put down to the lazy assumptions often made about religious types from flyover country, but, yes, Pence was a C student at high school and, yes, getting into law school had been something of a struggle. The vice president was not, one former associate told me, someone to get too deeply into policy details, but this former talk radio host was “good at messaging”.

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