Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s choice for vice president, did exactly what a running mate is supposed to do Wednesday: He delivered the most coherent pitch anyone has given for the Republican ticket all year.
Pence was chosen precisely because he’s a calm, conventional, almost colorless conservative – but all those mild attributes turned out to be assets at a convention that’s been dominated by hyperbole and discord.
Pence served up plenty of attack lines against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, but he leavened them with a dose of Midwestern folksiness that was reminiscent – yes, I’m going to say it – of Ronald Reagan.
“They tell us this economy is the best that we can do,” Pence said. “It’s nowhere near the best that we can do; it’s just the best that they can do.” (Reagan, vintage 1980.)
That’s no accident; Pence got into politics in the 1980s as a follower of Reagan. In recent days, he’s even professed that Trump “reminds (him) of Reagan,” an optimistic comparison that should probably be chalked up to the flush of enthusiasm of being picked for a big job.
In short, Pence exceeded the low expectations that his mild demeanor engendered.
Unfortunately for him, his star turn came amid the rolling chaos of the Trump campaign. Television coverage of the convention was dominated Wednesday by Trump delegates’ furious booing of Ted Cruz, who gave a speech that pointedly did not endorse the GOP presidential candidate.
And Trump himself stepped on Pence’s show by giving an interview to The New York Times saying he might not defend the Baltic states if Russia invaded, even though the United States has promised to defend them as members of NATO.
So not a perfect night for Mike Pence, but still a good one.
If the ticket he’s on doesn’t win this year, he secured his place on the early list of GOP prospects for 2020.
Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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