Politico is reporting on the Donald Trump campaign’s planned usage of Vice President and master bootlicker Mike Pence as the 2020 presidential race heats up. The short version is that the campaign intends to put distance between Trump and Pence as much as possible. “For Pence to be an effective surrogate in 2020, campaign officials say his reputation must be preserved,” says the outlet, and “someone has to be the nice guy” in contrast to Trump’s, you know, overpowering repulsiveness in every possible way and venue.
The plan is that Donald will have his massive, shouting, hate-filled rallies, while Mike Pence will go to battleground states and counties and attempt to reel in “suburban women” and “swing-state residents suffering from Trump fatigue.”
That is, as can be expected in a piece that relies heavily on the Trump campaign itself for its descriptions, putting the most charitable face possible on it. The more accurate take is that Mike Pence will act as the Malevolent Hypocrite magnet, attempting to placate his usual base of The Worst Churchgoing People You Know and Folksy Diner-Goers Who Keep Blurting Out Racist Things To Visiting National Reporters. You know the type: People who very much like the Trump administration’s brutal treatment of refugees, caging of children, cuts to food assistance, and attempted entry bans on anyone from “Muslim” countries, but who are turned off by Trump being, in public, a disgusting, boorish, blasphemous, perverted freak.
Relax, Mike Pence is there to say. I am as holy as Jeebus Himself, and if I can put up with all Trump’s criminal acts, grotesque public behavior, and lifetime of treating anyone and everyone with open, seething contempt, then you can swallow the jagged shards of your folksy pride, put on your best brown shirt, and vote for Team Asshole. He’s rude, but he’s racist. What more do you people want?
It’s the same dynamic that Pence has tried to cultivate throughout his association with Donald Trump. People have done crimes around him, from Flynn to Manafort to Cohen to Giuliani to, it seems, a good chunk of the Cabinet, but Mike Pence has been absolutely unaware of any of it, even when his staff testifies that they sent him a memo about the crimes in his daily briefing materials. Donald Trump is, in action, everything the supposedly saintly Pence pretends to abhor, an alleged sexual assaulter and a liar who takes apparent pride in harming those around him, but Mike Pence sees not a thing.
That’s the voter Mike Pence is going for. People like Mike Pence: people who go to church on Sundays, praise Jesus and America, and spend every smiling hour being mean, spiteful, racist, misogynistic stains looking to hurt anyone in America who isn’t them, and willing to excuse any behavior by any ally who will help them do it.
There’s a lot of them, so it’s not a bad strategy. Mike Pences are a dime a dozen, in the swing states and everywhere else.
But there’s another, rather more obvious reason that the Trump campaign is keeping Mike Pence at a distance during this campaign ramp-up. It is true that “campaign officials say his reputation must be preserved” in order to woo disillusioned Trump voters back to Team Asshole, but, more pointedly, Pence needs to give a wide, wide berth to the crimes that have landed Donald Trump in impeachment hearings. There is a slim but measurable chance that Donald—especially as the pressure seems to be getting to him of late—will still be revealed to be involved with crimes so ostentatious that even members of his own crime-denying party will yet turn on him, and somebody has to be Plan B.
That would be Pence. He’s been there the whole time, but didn’t see a thing and didn’t know about any of the, you know, unpleasantness. He’s spent the entire administration polishing himself as Plan B, should Plan B ever become needed.