Yesterday we were treated to the disgusting spectacle of Mike Pence being forced to ask for Donald Trump’s permission to endorse Paul Ryan for re-election. Paul Ryan would be the guy who is the Speaker of the House and under our Constitution the senior elected Republican in the entire nation as he’s third in line for the presidency. As Leon said
This is one of the more degrading things I have seen a politician subjected to. Here is Mike Pence explaining that he endorses Paul Ryan, and he has to say that he went out and got Trump’s permission to do it, because that makes Trump sound better and magnanimous (I guess?). Ridiculous.
While Trump was willing to allow a little rebellion from Pence, he obviously wasn’t allowing more than a little. As you know, Trump has been carrying out a war of words against Arizona Senator John McCain and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. Trump’s spat with McCain is of little consequence, but the war with Ayotte is serious if the GOP is to have any hope of retaining control of the Senate. The latest polling shows that Ayotte has lost over 10 points since Trump was nominated and though she leads Trump she is now behind her Democrat opponent.
Pence was interviewed by NBC News’s Vaughn Hillyard in Virginia today and the subject of endorsements came up:
Pence's response when asked whether he will be endorsing John McCain or Kelly Ayotte: pic.twitter.com/oOTus7gTxm
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) August 4, 2016
Read that a couple of times. Pence does not endorse McCain and Ayotte. In fact, he seems to do just the opposite.
“I look forward to supporting Republican candidates in the days and weeks ahead all over the country, and so does Donald Trump. But the stakes in this election are so high. To restore our country and home and abroad, we need new leadership, and I’m looking forward to standing should to shoulder with Donald Trump to drive that new leadership forward.”
Can you think of another time in history where a candidate for president would not endorse incumbent senators from his own party because they disagreed with him?
The implication of what Pence said is clear. It is kind of hard to say that incumbent senators in the majority party constitute “new leadership.” This sort of leaves him in the position of endorsing the Democrats as they are the only “new leadership” that is available. And Mike Pence is much too experienced a politician to make a gaffe of that magnitude.
What is sad is that this is not only the logical implication of Pence’s statement but it isn’t even surprising. Trump is trying to build a power base that is independent of the GOP in his own image. The best way for him to establish control is by forcing out anyone who disagrees with him — as he is still trying to do with Paul Ryan — and by co-opting a number of Democrats in the same way he bought a large tranche of the conservative media.