Last week Indiana Governor Mike Pence endorsed Ted Cruz for president. This should have been a no brainer. Pence, according to friends, loathes Donald Trump. He knows the importance of Indiana’s primary in stopping Trump. Even if he likes Kasich more, he would be entirely justified endorsing Cruz based on the agreement between the two campaigns. Yet what came from Pence was a timid and timorous endorsement calculated to hurt no one’s feelings and, by the same token, do damned little good in the fight to stop Trump.
Ted Cruz probably wanted more than a half-hearted endorsement, but that was what he got from Indiana governor Mike Pence on Friday. “I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary,” Pence told Indianapolis’s WCIB radio. “I urge everyone to make up their own mind.” The governor, who has always favored a gentler and more soft-spoken approach to conservative politics, went out of his way to praise Donald Trump, who can all-but-end Cruz’s campaign if he carries Indiana’s primary on Tuesday, for tapping into “the frustration of millions of working Americans.”
Throughout, he sounded more like a man copping to intense pressure than an advocate offering his unqualified support. And he was.
The road to Pence’s half-hearted yes was an agonizing one. He loathes Trump, and genuinely believes that Cruz and Trump are fighting for the soul of the Republican party. Echoing Ronald Reagan’s endorsement of Barry Goldwater in 1964, he said Wednesday that the race represents “a time for choosing.” So the choice for him was always between backing Cruz and staying on the sidelines. But sources familiar with his decision say his advisers by and large counseled him against an endorsement, arguing it would hurt his chances in a tough reelection battle this fall, and the 2016 race has certainly raised the question of how much endorsements matter. At the same time, Pence came under intense pressure from conservative donors, politicians, and media figures — many of them close personal friends — to back Cruz. The result was a lukewarm endorsement that left both sides unsatisfied.
Consider that for a moment. Pence detests Trump. Pence believes this is a critical primary for the GOP. Pence prefers Cruz. Yet, at that critical moment, a moment when he is offered, arguably, an opportunity never before presented to any other governor of Indiana to set the course for the nation, he decides that nothing matters much more than his own re-election. In fact, it is pretty ironic that in his endorsement that he proclaimed this was “a time to choose” and yet at a critical juncture for his nation and party, Mike Pence is reported to have come within a gnat’s whisker of voting “present.”
I hope that this story is wrong because if it is true there is no reason in the world for anyone to vote for Mike Pence.
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