Over the last few months, Pence has done a masterful job of remaining loyal to Trump in public, all while distancing himself from the nominee on issues that have traditionally been important to the Republican electorate, such as abortion and the military.
Tonight was no different. From almost the first moment, Pence touted his own humble roots and his record in Indiana and in Congress. He stressed his hawkish foreign policy, and his strong conservative record on abortion. The Indiana governor was essentially auditioning for his role as a presidential candidate four years from now, and he passed with flying colors.
When forced to defend Trump on his tax returns, for example, he did, but for the most part, he pivoted quickly back to his own achievements—running against the Obama administration and the woman who crafted its foreign policy as secretary of state.
If he enters the Republican race for president four years from now, he’ll now have a big leg up on rest of the field, a hodgepodge of potential candidates who either have very little national name recognition (the Tom Cottons) or who left the 2016 race in bitter defeat (the Marco Rubios).
He’ll also be uniquely well positioned to unite disillusioned Trump supporters who might not ordinarily vote, as well as the religious evangelical voters who support him. That is one potent combination.