On Wednesday morning, I wrote a pre-debate primer about how the vice-presidential debate would be Mike Pence’s final audition for the 2024 GOP primary. He aced that audition, and very well could become president one day.
I haven’t approved — well, no — I’ve been disgusted by the sycophancy that he has exhibited since being selected as Donald Trump’s running mate in 2016. And I’ve never thought him a particularly charismatic figure either; But that doesn’t mean he’s not talented. On the debate stage with Kamala Harris, Pence left no doubt about his own aspirations and abilities.
Pence’s capacity to respectfully and convincingly weave stories into a coherent articulation of the merits of his own worldview and the problems with his political opponents’ is undeniable. On coronavirus, Pence held his own and rightfully pointed out that the Biden campaign is without novel ideas to address it. On every other subject, he embarrassed the California senator on both substance and style. Without apology, he defended the pro-life position. Without reservation, he explained why the strike that eliminated Qasem Soleimani was not only justified, but vital to U.S. interests. The whole evening was a reminder of just how appealing the conservative agenda can be when it’s not packaged within Donald Trump.
In 2024, Mike Pence has a case for being that package.