- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2016

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence describes himself as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” — but after nearly three weeks on the job as Donald Trump’s running mate, it appears that he should add a fourth title: Trump apologist.

Mr. Pence has been a loyal soldier, working to explain away some of Mr. Trump’s verbal miscues, while still putting some distance between himself and his boss — including breaking with Mr. Trump to endorse former House colleague Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Analysts debate whether Mr. Pence will be effective in softening Mr. Trump’s rougher edges, or whether being coupled with the billionaire businessman will instead derail Mr. Pence’s political career.

But for now, the former congressman and first-term governor is all on board, saying Mr. Trump is the answer to the country’s needs.

“He is a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers, and when Donald Trump does his talking, he doesn’t go tiptoeing around thousands of rules of political correctness laying in the path of men and women who want to take a conservative stand,” Mr. Pence said while campaigning in North Carolina on Thursday.

Mr. Pence’s role is coming under more scrutiny as Mr. Trump falters, slumping in the polls and landing in embarrassing fights, including one with the Muslim parents of a U.S. Army captain who died while serving in Iraq.

Looking to end the conflict, Mr. Pence released a statement through the Trump campaign calling Capt. Humayun Khan “an American hero and his family, [who] like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American.”

At a town hall event this week, Mr. Pence also defended a military mom after she was booed for asking how he, as the father of a Marine, could tolerate Mr. Trump’s disrespect toward veterans.

“Folks, that is what freedom looks like and that is what freedom sounds like,” he said, diffusing the situation, and sparking some applause. “The story of Captain Khan is an incredibly inspiring story.”

Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and Trump critic, said that Mr. Pence “is demonstrating he is perhaps the only competent person in an incompetent organization.

“You look at this week and last week, there are two constants: Donald Trump says something that outrages the country and a lot of Republican voters, and ‘Mike Pence cleanup on aisle five,’” Mr. Heye said.

Steffen Schmidt, political science professor at Iowa State University, predicted that “Pence will emerge as the hero of movement conservative Republicans.”

“He put himself in the line of fire ‘for the party and for conservatism,’” Mr. Schmidt said.

Mr. Pence, though, dismisses talk of a fractured party looking to get beyond 2016 and into 2020.

“Up until a short time ago, it seemed like he was out there all on his own, but now this party is united, this movement is united, and we are going to make Donald Trump the next president of the United States of America,” Mr. Pence said in Raleigh.

The message was received warmly, including by a young man named Matthew, who said he was 11 years old and told Mr. Pence he noticed “that you’ve been kind of softening up on Mr. Trump’s policies and words.”

“Is this going to be your role in the administration?” he asked.

“What I learned, Matthew — and you will learn when you are governor of North Carolina; I am not kidding about that — is sometimes things don’t always come out how you mean, and Donald Trump and I are absolutely determined to work together,” he said. “We have different styles; you might have noticed that.

“But I would tell you differences in style, Matthew, should never be confused with differences in conviction,” Mr. Pence said.

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