Who’s “we,” kemosabe?

You’ll see below that Pence is doing his best to split the difference between Trump, whose brain will never allow him to believe that he lost a popularity contest to a loser like Hillary Clinton, and the national GOP, which will feel obliged for civic reasons to acknowledge that Clinton did indeed win fair and square. Splitting the difference in this case means backing up Trump on his claim that the media is neck-deep in the tank for Hillary, which of course is true, while inching away from the idea that media bias alone is enough to delegitimize a Clinton victory. Here’s how Pence phrased it in another interview this morning:

“I think what Donald Trump is talking about is frankly what appears to be the monolithic support of the national media for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, their willful ignorance about the avalanche of hard evidence,” Pence said.

“We’ll respect the outcome of this election,” he continued. “Well, look, let me be very clear. Donald Trump said in the first debate that we’ll respect the will of the American people in this election. The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of American history. And, and elections get really tough. But, but the American people are getting awful tired of this two-on-one fight with many of you in the national media doing half of Hillary Clinton’s work for her every day.”

I assume Pence already understands that if Trump crashes and burns next week, he’ll be the GOP’s — and the dreaded media’s — go-to guy the day after the election for a proper concession to Clinton. Others will be asked to concede on Trump’s behalf too, starting with Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan, and both will comply, but concessions from people attached to the campaign will be especially prized since they’re somewhat immune via their association with Trump to Trumpers’ inevitable accusations that they’re part of the “rigging” conspiracy. Kellyanne Conway, as Trump’s most visible and “reasonable” media surrogate, will be under particularly heavy pressure to acknowledge Clinton’s win as legit, but no one will be under as much pressure as Pence. And he surely knows it: If he was going to go all-in on the “rigged” argument, he would have done it here. He didn’t because he knows that would make his life even harder next month, when he finally finds himself pitted squarely against Trump in Trump’s campaign to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

Even after the election, many Democrats and Republicans fear, Trump could keep showing up at rallies. He’s all but certain to keep up his near-constant claim of a “rigged election” on Twitter and in friendly news interviews, casting doubts and stoking a toxicity that, at least as of now, relatively few in his party have explicitly rejected…

Only Republicans—and maybe leaders from the right who aren’t going to be suspected to be part of the “establishment”—will be able to move the country forward if Trump won’t, many agree.

“This is on them. They’ve created this. They need to defuse,” said a senior Democrat on Saturday evening…

Former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis predicted that Republicans leaders and voters alike will quickly accept the results and move past the election, blaming the loss on Trump and washing their hands of him—unless it’s another close result where the winner is decided by hanging chads and court cases.

If we’re going to howl about media bias, incidentally, let’s make sure the timeline we’re using to judge extends further back than, say, a month ago. Remember this Shorenstein Center study of media coverage during the Republican primaries? The media’s been laying the groundwork for a Clinton victory since last June, and job one in doing that was handing saturation coverage to the weakest, least organized, most self-destructive candidate in the Republican primary field:

tc

Trump received 34 percent of all news media coverage of Republicans in the primaries, easily more than the 18 percent that second-place finisher Jeb Bush got. That was worth $55 million to him in free advertising by one estimate. A different estimate, by the New York Times, put that number way, way, way higher at no less than $2 billion, rendering irrelevant Trump’s weak ground game and minimal fundraising. And they did this full in the knowledge that Trump has been phenomenally and consistently unpopular among the wider electorate since last summer when he joined the race. They could have aggressively pursued the rumors about his interactions with women at any point before the convention this summer, but if they had, it would have helped Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio and that in turn would have hurt Democrats comparatively. If you’re desperate for a media conspiracy to explain this election, in which a Democrat now looks poised to win easily even though various fundamentals pointed to a generic Republican advantage, that’s a fine place to start. The media helped create Trump the politician in the expectation that he’d be the easiest to destroy. They were right.

Here’s Pence followed by Newt Gingrich addressing Trump’s “rigging” allegations far less delicately, comparing the media dumpster-diving to a “coup d’etat” and guessing that Trump would be up 15 points if the press were fair, which is extremely stupid given the demographics of the country and Trump’s own compulsion towards self-destruction but makes for some nice ointment for sore Trumpers. Why is Pence being circumspect about Trump’s “rigging” claims while Newt is going hog wild? Simple: Pence still potentially has a future as a national figure whereas Gingrich doesn’t. Newt can afford to be as irresponsible as he likes.