Jack Colwell: What is Pence's future if Trump gets trounced?
Sunday, August 28, 2016 5:04 PM
SOUTH BEND - Gov. Mike Pence will not be governor of Indiana next year. Nor will Pence be vice president, unless there are monumental events to avert the looming defeat of Donald Trump in the presidential race
Q. So, where would that leave Pence?
A. Perhaps closer to his goal than he would have been if he had declined the vice presidential nomination and had run instead for re-election as governor.
Q. Really? Losing for vice president, maybe with the GOP ticket trounced, could leave Pence still viable for his goal of president?
A. Quite possibly. In fact, it could be argued that the worse the trouncing for Trump, the better politically for Pence.
Q. Won’t Pence share blame if the Trump-Pence ticket is demolished?
A. No. Pence would get no blame. It wouldn’t be his fault. Pence would get credit from Republican leaders for trying to hold the party together and save Republicans in governor, senator and House races. They would think of how much worse things would have been if Pence wasn’t there to clean up after Trump’s messes. Many Republicans now lament that it’s not Pence leading the ticket. And that’s his goal - someday, preferably in 2020, to lead the ticket, to be the presidential nominee and win.
Q. Couldn’t Pence have been closer to a future presidential nomination by running for re-election as governor?
A. Probably not. He didn’t exactly gain national recognition during a first term as governor. There was no guarantee that a second term would have been smoother, less controversial and more impressive as Republicans looked for a 2020 presidential nominee. It was far from certain that he would win re-election. His job approval rating had been abysmal. He was in a toss-up race. Defeat would have ended his political career.
Q. How’s Pence doing now in the polls?
A. Good. A mid-August Gallup poll showed Pence with a net favorable rating of +11, with 36 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable and 39 percent with no opinion yet. That’s way better than the negative ratings for Trump and Hillary Clinton. He also was doing better than Tim Kaine, his vice presidential opponent, who had a net favorable rating of +3.
Q. So, Pence could be a top presidential contender next time?
A. Could be. Pence will have almost saturation name recognition, something he wouldn’t come close to having as governor of Indiana. If he continues to have a poll rating on the favorable side, he could be a formidable future contender. But there also is danger.
Q. What’s the danger?
A. While nobody could blame him for a Trump loss, some party leaders and conservative voters could regard Pence as tainted by linking with Trump. Conservative columnist David Brooks expressed that view strongly after the Republican National Convention. Brooks wrote: “I left the arena each night burning with indignation at Mike Pence. I almost don’t blame Trump. He is a morally untethered, spiritually vacuous man who appears haunted by multiple personality disorders. It is the ‘sane’ and ‘reasonable’ Republicans who deserve the shame _ the ones who stood silently by, or worse, while Donald Trump gave away their party’s sacred inheritance.”
Q. Do losing a vice presidential candidates often bounce back to win the presidency the next time?
A. Not often. Politico points out that no losing vice presidential candidate has gone on to win the presidency since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Q. If Pence does get the 2020 nomination, would that problem of a defeated vice presidential candidate going on to the White House mean that he probably would lose that November?
A. Not necessarily. The first step for Pence would of course be winning the nomination. And the Republican nomination to run against President Hillary Clinton, who would be seeking to extend Democratic control of the White House to 16 years, could be much more valuable than the Trump nomination of 2016.
Colwell has covered politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.