Pence is almost uniquely unqualified to succeed Donald Trump (or a Democrat, though this possibility still seems to me remote) in 2025. The man is a fossil of the conservative movement as it existed before Trump, in what might as well be the Pleistocene era. Has he ever given anyone the impression, from before he accepted the vice presidential nomination in 2016 until the present, of being committed to a single one of the issues over which Trump broke? He is a lifelong free trader who supported the Iraq War when he was in Congress. To continue the evolutionary metaphor, Pence’s following Trump would be like if the the creature after the Neanderthal in those old “March of Progress” illustrations became a gibbering monkey again. Pence belongs to the Republican Party’s past, not its future.

This is exactly why Trump choose Pence to be his vice president. He is a throwback, and a useful one. Pence can shake down reluctant old-guard GOP donors. He can be a liaison between the White House and right-wing think tanks and pressure groups whose members Trump has no interest in flattering. He can talk shop with social conservatives about judges and the courts and other issues that no doubt bore the president to tears. But eight years of helping Trump navigate the boring stuff won’t make him any more attractive to the voters who gave up on his brand of politics long ago — or never had any use for it in the first place.