Vice presidential nominees should, by the nature of the office sought, expect to spend much of their time out of the spotlight. But National Journal's Josh Krashaaur suggests in an article this morning that the Republican nominee for vice president is being overshadowed even more than usual this time around:
Ever since Pence was tapped to be Trump’s No. 2, he’s been overshadowed. The most recent indignity occurred this week when Pence received a haircut at a black-owned barbershop near Philadelphia, and the barber initially didn’t know who he was. On the night he took center stage at the GOP convention, Sen. Ted Cruz preempted Pence by refusing to endorse Trump that same night. Even Trump chose to unveil his new running mate on a sleepy Saturday afternoon, devoid of the pageantry that most candidates utilize when they make their vice-presidential pick.
National polling confirms just how anonymous Pence still is. After the convention, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found one-quarter of Americans still didn’t know much about him, and another 28 percent had neither positive nor negative feelings towards him. Most participants at a Wisconsin focus group conducted this week couldn’t even come up with a word to describe Pence. (To be sure, Sen. Tim Kaine has also struggled to register in national polling, and didn’t elicit strong feelings in the aforementioned focus group.)
For all his anonymity, Pence’s future path in politics will tell us a lot about the long-term direction of the Republican Party. If Trump loses, will the GOP establishment try to purge those who chose to fall in line with Trump regardless of his behavior? Or will Pence be seen as someone who can uniquely bridge the divide between the party’s warring factions? If Trump is truly seen as a blight on the Republican Party, it’s hard to see how Pence has much of a political future. But if Republicans believe they need to placate Trump’s supporters while also keeping the party’s traditional rank-and-file in the fold, Pence could be one of the few remaining Republicans who can thread that needle.
If the Trump campaign crashes and burns on election day, as many think possible or even likely, Pence may be grateful to not be strongly associated with the failure. But as Kraushaar points out, plenty of people in Republican politics will remember, and that could prove either blessing in disguise or an unshakeable albatross.