If Mike Pence had any doubts about what life would be like on the 2016 Republican presidential ticket with Donald Trump, the past week will have erased them: He is the damage control guy.
The Indiana governor who swore off political mudslinging years ago heard Trump call Democratic rival Hillary Clinton “the devil” and watched him fan the flames of a feud with the parents of a Muslim soldier who died saving U.S. troops in Iraq.
Unlike many vice presidential running mates, the mild-mannered Pence was not tapped as the attack dog in the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump has that part down pat.
Pence’s job is harder: softening Trump’s rough edges and limiting the fallout from what many Republicans see as the nominee’s self-inflicted wounds.
A week ago, for example, Pence rowed back on Trump’s blacklist of some media outlets, saying the campaign is discussing changing course.
Last Sunday, as Trump’s dispute with the parents of slain U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan boiled over, Pence issued a statement praising the soldier as an “American hero” and saying that his family “should be cherished by every American.”
On Wednesday, Pence offered his own endorsement to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top U.S. elected Republican, after Trump infuriated many party leaders by declining to endorse Ryan in his re-election bid.
Pence, who swore off negative campaigning after losing a vituperative congressional race in 1990, eschews name calling. Trump, by contrast, delights in using monikers such as “Crooked Hillary” and “the devil” to describe Clinton.
Trump has made clear he values Pence, telling a rally on Thursday in Portland, Maine, that he and his running mate have a “great relationship.”
But Pence must walk a fine line.