Now that the conventions have come to a close, the general-election campaigns can fully launch. Governor Mike Pence kicked off his campaigning today by working the conservative wing of the GOP, assuring Hugh Hewitt that he would play a major role in professionalizing Team Trump, both before and after the election. After going on the attack against Hillary Clinton, Pence said he’d prevail upon Trump to ending the bans on reporters and media outlets that have drawn so much attention:
HH: A big criticism I have of Trump-Pence. You guys bar some reporters from your campaigns, specifically the Washington Post. I’ve argued about this with Mr. Trump. It’s not in the American tradition. Will you argue with him to lift that ban, because reporters are part of the game. And we shouldn’t ban, Republicans should not be afraid of reporters. Will you do that?
MP: Well, I found out about that. We had a great rally the other night with Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and some of the local folks, some of the local folks you know, asked for credentials from reporters, and there was a reporter that was not permitted in the setting. And I’ll tell you, we’re all talking about that. I had a long, I have a long history, as you well know, Hugh, of advocating and defending for a free and independent press.
MP: You know, I authored legislation in the Congress. We actually got it passed once or twice, to create, you know, the ability to keep confidential sources confidential. So we’re going to have those conversations internally, and I fully expect in the next 100 days, we’re going to continue to be available to the media, whether they’re fair or unfair, and we’re going to take our case to the American people directly.
I suspect that’s not an issue that will keep conservatives up nights. Hugh’s right, and so is Pence, that Republicans should not act as if they fear the media; it’s better to call them out for bad reporting rather than block them from reporting at all, especially since it’s almost impossible to do the latter when your entire campaign strategy is based on big rallies. Conservatives who resent the liberal-media tilt aren’t going to care whether the Washington Post can’t get credentialed for those events. However, independent and centrist voters might, and Trump/Pence needs to orient itself for a general-election campaign rather than the primaries.
Conservatives do care about judicial appointments, however, and some have wondered whether Trump shares their concern or just mouths it to pander. Pence tells Hugh that Trump has promised him a major role in picking nominees, a key point that might sway some skeptical conservatives to stay within the Republican coalition this November:
HH: The 1st and 2nd Amendment, will you have a role in judge picking? Are you confident, this is so important for the NeverTrump crowd to hear, are you confident that he will put originalist in the mold of Scalia and Alito, and I say Chief Justice Roberts? A lot of my colleagues don’t like it. You’ve got one minute left. Are you confident, Mike Pence?
MP: I am absolutely confident that Donald Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia. And we were together at a public event the other day, and I’ll just say he made a point at a town hall meeting to say that I would be involved in that publicly. But we have talked extensively about that. And I think Donald Trump understands the enormous importance of the next president of the United States’ role in appointing up to two to three justices to the Supreme Court. And I tell people for the sake of the rule of law, for the sake of the sanctity of life, for the sake of the 2nd Amendment, for the president to appoint justices to the Supreme Court must be a President Donald Trump.
Pence also promised that the Trump campaign is ready to get a lot more specific on policy, and that conservatives should be pleased. Perhaps rebuking Hugh himself a bit, Pence even mentions the nuclear-triad issue:
MP: Donald Trump is surrounding himself with an extraordinary group of men and women with capabilities, as I think you saw it in the VFW speech this week, that he’s going to continue to lay out the detailed policies in a broad range of areas. But you know what? It’s not, you know, I was really struck the other day. I saw President Obama in an interview, I forget where it was, but he said something like he was concerned about having a president that didn’t know stuff. And you know, it just reminded me of, I’ll paraphrase something Ronald Reagan used to say. You know, he says it’s not what they don’t know, it’s what they know that just isn’t so, right? I mean, you know, we’ve got a president who’s got this professorial air, and then we just heard that once again, same tone out of their nominee last night, and the truth of the matter is it isn’t that they understand or it isn’t that they’ve got a handle of the nuclear triad, or they’ve got a handle on national security issues and our various alliances. It’s just that they don’t understand America’s place in the world. They don’t understand the obligations that we have as the arsenal of democracy.
And they frankly don’t understand the important of unambiguous American leadership on the world stage. I mean, that, to me, is what is most appealing about Donald Trump. And literally the thousands of people who pour out, you know, he and I hit the road this week, and he was in Iowa last night to an enormous crowd, and I was at his side in Virginia and in Florida and in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And people are turning out because they know this man is a distinctly American leader who’s going to bring this clear-eyed, strong, American leadership back onto the world stage, put America first, stand by our allies and stand up to those who would oppose us, and confront and destroy our enemies.
Last week, rumors emerged that Donald Trump Jr offered John Kasich the running-mate role by offering to put him in charge of both domestic and foreign policy, with Trump more of an aspirational leader and rally point. That prompted denials from Team Trump, but one has to wonder just how interested in day-to-day governance Trump would be. Pence might end up with the same deal just as a consequence of Trump’s temperament and approach. Or at least conservatives might want to console themselves with that thought.