Suddenly, Tuesday’s Vice-Presidential debate looms large in this year’s presidential election, now that Donald Trump has the look of a former candidate. Pence was the GOP’s sole, bright light this week, outshining his opponent, Tim Kaine. He displayed a bearing that the head of the party lacks. Trump’s sudden collapse. due to the release of a 2005 off-camera audio recording, has given party regulars a reason to force Trump from the race. Pence would be elevated if Trump is unable to endure the election process. Just desserts for Trump, who previously ran the Miss Universe pageant. Pence, the Accidental Running Mate, waits in the wings, poised to become the Accidental Candidate.
House on Fire
House Republican defectors have gathered force since release of the audio tape on Friday. The fallout has been particularly strong in Utah, whose governor and leading congressman have withdrawn their Trump endorsements.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R.-Utah) said,”My wife, Julia and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter. Do you think I can look her in the eye and tell her that I endorsed Donald Trump for president when he acts like this and his apology? That was no apology, that was an apology for getting caught.”
Half Pence Better Than None
Pence, on the other hand, is tailor-made for the conservative, Christian base that Trump has left adrift. His professed faith informs his politics. Even before the latest Trump eruption, Pence had distanced himself from Trump on several issues. He is a more traditional candidate for the GOP. The regulars would happily line up behind Pence.
At the debate Pence attempted a high-wire act. He tried to normalize many of Trump’s positions. For example, he voiced a softer version of Trump’s exclusionary immigration policy. Pence, who unsuccessfully attempted to bar Syrian refugees from Indiana, stated in effect, that Trump’s plan of mass deportation is not practical. At times he staked out his own positions. Pence does not buy into Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin. He holds to the conventional view of Putin as a dangerous autocrat. Pence tried to harmonize they are differing views about Syria.
Serendipity for the GOP
At this point, the Republicans would be ecstatic if they can emerge with the semblance of a party. Pence is their best hope. As a presidential candidate, Mike Pence would be the most conservative major party candidate ever to run. He isn’t likely to win, but he may hold on to Utah. For example, Pence would give his party a standard-bearer that down ballot candidates would not need to shun.
All of that said, Hillary Clinton remains a prohibitive favorite to win the presidency, whether or not Trump quits or is dumped.The election juggernaut is steaming ahead. However, Trump’s self-destruction will give cover to his followers, allowing them to return to the fold.