Trump’s running mate has been quiet since a video of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women dropped on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, he released a statement distancing himself from Trump rather than defending him: “As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the eleven-year-old video released yesterday,” Pence said in a statement. “I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.” Reports said Pence, a committed evangelical, was “apoplectic” at the release of the video.
It’s hard to imagine that Pence thinks that going after Bill Clinton, as Trump has signaled he will do, is a good political strategy. Whatever else you think about Pence’s Christianity, it’s also unlikely that he thinks that it’s the right thing to do. And Pence had signalled that he was already carefully eyeing Trump’s performance before Trump held the press conference: Abandoning the ticket is on the table.
Usually, sharp strategic shifts like this are all-hands-on-deck affairs. But the press conference Trump held today with Bill Clinton’s accusers seemed to come as a surprise to his surrogates, who only appeared to receive talking points after the fact. We haven’t heard anything from Pence since his statement yesterday, and Trump just poured gasoline all over the debate stage while holding a lit match. Whether or not Pence was consulted before Trump hit upon this strategy, he will have a lot of questions to answer about his running mate—the fact that many Republicans are calling on him to take over the ticket only makes the need for another statement even more necessary.