On Tuesday, Trump created a firestorm by refusing to endorse Paul Ryan in his reelection bid. Trump’s obstinate refusal to be a good soldier for the party is in keeping with his entire campaign. But it also has put his running mate, the very establishment-y Mike Pence, in a difficult position. After all, two weeks ago, Ryan had introduced him glowingly at the Republican Convention.
Pence has become a kind of establishment ambassador for the Trump campaign, or perhaps more accurately, a kind of Tyrion Lannister (without all the fun stuff) to Trump’s immature Joffrey Baratheon. He responded to Trump’s snub of Ryan by trying to circle a square, endorsing the man his running mate had publicly thrown under the bus. Here’s what he told Fox News over the phone on Wednesday:
“I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his reelection. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States to rebuild our military, to strengthen our economy and to ensure that we have the kind of leadership in this country that will make America great again. ... I talked to Donald Trump this morning about my support for Paul Ryan and our longtime friendship,” Pence said. “He strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan in next Tuesday’s primary and I’m pleased to do it.”
Pence also emphasized that Trump and Ryan merely hadn’t built a relationship yet—that all they need is a little time. Amusingly, Pence also quoted Trump’s bitchiest remark—his passive aggressive use of Ryan’s “I’m not quite there yet”—as proof of that.
With less than 100 days to the election, Trump and Pence are practically running different campaigns. Pence has become a kind of Reince Preibus figure within Trump’s campaign, someone who appears when Trump has said something bad and makes the case that what he has said is not bad. It’s an impossible job, and his endorsement of Ryan only makes the disorder in Trump’s house more apparent.