Photo: Gage Skidmore
Sources close to the Trump campaign have said that Mike Pence was selected as Donald Trump’s running mate because of his ability to maintain positive relationships with the Republican establishment and media, even as the fallout from recent comments has threatened some of those relationships.
Pence has been working overtime due to several recent controversies. One of them has featured a war of words between Donald Trump and the parents of fallen Army Capt. Humayun Khan. After Khan’s father challenged Trump during his DNC speech, Trump and the Khans feuded in the following days with extensive media attention focused on them.
Other comments during an August 2nd interview with the Washington Post have drawn widespread media attention, including Trump’s decision to refrain from backing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain on their reelection bids.
During the interview, Trump said, “I’m just not quite there yet” after he was asked whether or not he would support Paul Ryan’s reelection campaign. Trump seemed to still be upset regarding Paul Ryan’s hesitation to endorse him and his ongoing disagreements with Trump.
Trump has also largely blamed the media for the escalation of the feud between himself and Capt. Humayun Khan’s parents. When asked about the Khan family during the Washington Post interview, Trump said, “It’s purely and simply the unfair media…They want the story to stay alive as long as possible.”
Of course Trump has never been concerned about political correctness since the start of his campaign, so the recent controversies should be no surprise. However, sources say that the past few days have been among his most challenging, partially because of the intense media scrutiny surrounding them and falling poll numbers.
Pence has been working to contain the fallout from these controversies and others that have resulted in some Republican leaders questioning Trump’s strategy and willingness to transition to the type of traditional campaign that they are hoping for.
Pence has offered words of support to the Khans and has also said that he would be backing Paul Ryan for his reelection bid. Pence even mentioned that Trump “strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan” prior to his Tuesday August 9th primary.
Pence also met Senator John McCain prior to a rally in Phoenix and later praised McCain in an interview with a Phoenix ABC affiliate. However, he refrained from explicitly endorsing McCain during the interview.
Sources have said that Pence was selected for the purpose of helping to ease some of the inflammatory media responses during the general election season that have resulted from Donald Trump speaking his mind. Pence has seemed to play this role quite prominently the past few days, and it may have to continue during the rest of Trump’s campaign if he is unwilling to change his approach.
Although some believe that Pence’s public endorsement of Paul Ryan was some kind of split between him and Trump, sources say that it is exactly how the Trump campaign wants to operate. Trump has given Mike Pence the freedom to speak his mind in much the same way that he has during his entire campaign.
Pence and Trump continue to have open lines of communication, and Pence has given the campaign notice prior to any statements on any controversial issues that Trump has been involved in. The campaign believes that it will be refreshing to have two candidates who speak their minds in contrasting ways as they continue to take their unconventional approach.
Whether or not Pence will be able to connect with and win the approval of the full Republican establishment remains a question, however many Republicans have praised Trump for choosing Pence and continue to view the pair as a strong ticket compared to Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.