Good question, and one that requires an answer from not just the media but his own campaign. Mike Pence hit the hustings in Pittsburgh yesterday, delivering a masterful speech that wove his personal charisma, folksy humor, a nod to Steeler fans, and a ringing challenge to oppose Hillary Clinton. He also took on the media, and wondered aloud why the media isn’t applying an equal amount of scrutiny to the Democratic nominee as they do to Donald Trump:
Donald Trump was in hot water Tuesday for comments he made about “Second Amendment people” stopping Hillary Clinton, but his running mate, Mike Pence, says the media are at fault and accused the press of doing what it can to elect Hillary Clinton by concocting almost daily controversies around his running mate.
“It seems like every single day the national press latches on to some other issue about my running mate, just each and every day of the week,” Pence told a crowd of a few hundred Tuesday night, extending his usual stump speech riff on the press. “But you know what they’re not talking about? Anything having to do with Hillary Clinton.” ….
“The media stays focused on our side of the aisle,” he said. “It’s almost as though the Steelers had to play an entire season at away games, in front of hostile crowds, with hometown refs. But they’d still win, wouldn’t they?”
“It’s 2-on-1 with the media doing most of Hillary’s work for her and Donald Trump is still winning for the American people,” he said. “The man just doesn’t quit.”
Pence directly rebutted the media take on Trump’s 2nd Amendment reference on Tuesday in a later interview as well as at the rally itself. Go to the two-minute mark here to see Pence trying to calm the waters with a little more mature perspective. Trump was “clearly saying is that people who cherish that right, people who believe that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens make our communities more safe not less safe,” Pence explained, “should be involved in the political process and let their voice be heard.”
In the speech, Pence hailed Trump as someone who “doesn’t go tiptoeing around the thousand rules of political correctness” imposed by elites. True enough, and it’s been one of the reasons for Trump’s success — in the primaries. However, that’s a double-edged sword. His joy in shredding political correctness helped him stand out in a crowded field for Republican voters and made him look like a fearless fighter. The same soundbites that enabled that play very differently outside of his populist base on the Right, and the media knows it. That is precisely what conservatives warned would happen if Trump won the nomination — that political bias in the media would eclipse their fascination with Trump right about the same time as the conventions closed.
In a general election against one candidate, Trump needs to expand his appeal beyond that base. For those in the center, they need to feel that despite his lack of political correctness, Trump has the right temperament to serve as president. At the very least, they need to have him quit feeding the media grist for their mill so that media outlets have to fill time with something other than Trump.
The campaign really should have Pence doing more high-profile appearances, too. He does an excellent job of engaging audiences and arguing the GOP perspective without stepping into landmines along the way. Pence may decry political correctness, but it’s very clear that he has a radar for political fumbles.