Politics & Policy

Mike Pence Saved the GOP after the Cruz Disaster

Mike Pence waves to the crowd after speaking at the GOP convention in Cleveland, July 20, 2016. (Aaron Bernstein/Reuters)
He single-handedly pulled the convention back together.

Ted Cruz essentially gave a career-ending address at the GOP convention on Wednesday night. His speech was a slap in the face to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “Vote your conscience” is a wonderful-sounding phrase. But we all know what Cruz meant by it: Don’t vote for Donald Trump.

I was in the convention hall during the speech and the crowd’s reaction was unbelievable. It

started out as a few hands waving in the air and some booing. It then grew and grew through the entire convention hall. And then boom! It was absolute bedlam.

I’ve been to most of the GOP conventions since 1980, and I’ve never seen anything like it. People stood on their feet and booed. Republicans booed! But Republicans aren’t like this, right? They don’t know how to stand up and boo! And yet, Cruz so divided them and worked them into such a frenzy that it happened.

Cruz tried to pass it off as the New York delegation acting up. That is wrong. The whole hall was in an uproar. You couldn’t even hear the last two paragraphs of Cruz’s speech because the booing had reached such a crescendo.

Cruz left an absolute disaster in his wake when he left the stage. Everyone was dispirited, as you might expect.

And then came Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence.

Pence delivered a terrific speech. He touched on all the major themes: the economy, shaking up Washington, and Trump being an outsider. He talked about how Trump understands that middle-class wage earners have been hurt — that they haven’t had a raise in 15 years. That’s something Ted Cruz, in all his years of political experience, still doesn’t understand.

Really, in the space of ten minutes or so, Mike Pence turned a demoralized, dispirited, depressed, negative convention into an upbeat, optimistic, united convention. There was a lot of optimism in his speech. He hit all the right notes.

The Cruz disaster — which had roiled the convention hall just moments before — was suddenly swept away. The attendees started applauding Pence. Then they cheered Pence. Then they got to their feet and clapped and cheered for Pence. Amazing.

Trump couldn’t have made a better choice. Mike Pence single-handedly pulled the convention back together, uniting the delegates with an optimistic message. He gave great support to Donald Trump and the ticket. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. He turned destruction into positive hope.

I’ve never seen anything like that.

Ted Cruz will never recover from this politically. His delegation from Texas wanted him to play ball with Trump, and he wouldn’t. He was freelancing in his speech. And that’s why his political career is over. He’s finished.

But Donald Trump and Mike Pence are just beginning.

We have to wait and see what Trump does in his speech on the closing night of the convention. It could make or break his presidential campaign. I personally hope that he puts a lot of focus on optimistic, positive changes for America. I want to see a lot of growth in that speech. I want to hear Trump talk about lowering taxes and curbing regulations.

But here’s what I want to see most of all: a follow-through on what Pence started.

One of Pence’s messages on Wednesday night was that we, meaning the ticket, can turn this nation around. It’s an American malaise right now — from the economy to civil unrest to the threat of terrorism. Trump must prove to the nation and the world that he can turn it around. He’s got to convince them.

It’s kind of like Reagan redux. Ronald Reagan convinced the voters that he could do the job. That’s what Trump needs to do.

And it’s huge. It’s more important than any policy detail. It’s the spirit that Pence started on Wednesday night. It’s Trump’s turn to keep it going.

Larry Kudlow — Larry Kudlow is the author of JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity, written with Brian Domitrovic.

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