John Nance Garner was a Texan who served as both speaker of the U.S. House and vice president (FDR’s first two terms 1933-1941) and is rightly famous for being the last man to have held both of those jobs, for having married a woman who once ran against him for a local office, and for his colorful descriptions of the vice presidency:
“Not worth a pitcher of warm piss (often sanitized to “spit”)”, he once said. “A spare tire on the automobile of government,” was another. He wound up publicly breaking with Roosevelt while still in office, and unsuccessfully running against him in 1940.
Mike Pence is now vying for the spare tire job, or that pitcher of…anyway, he and Trump made their debut Saturday.
Trying not to overthink this, it would appear that Governor Pence is simply…qualified. A Congressional Republican leader in the Bush years, he might have beaten Boehner to the Speaker’s job if he’d stayed in the House (Then he could try to duplicate Garner’s feat). More recently, the chief executive of his state. All in all, the resume Trump was said to want.
The cartoonist and commentator Scott Adams (“Dilbert”) has another idea about Pence: “What matters with Pence is how he looks in contrast with Trump…like a boring, washed-out version of the top of the ticket. You need that contrast to remind people that the top of the ticket is truly special.” Adams says the Obama-Biden and Reagan-Bush tickets did the same.
Others have said Pence will reassure Trump-wary voters (or Trump-weary) by being crisp, disciplined and low-key—all qualities focus group voters say they worry Trump lacks. Of course, does Pence really reassure? Or remind voters of the kind of person they wish was running for president, but isn’t?
In the end, Pence’s effect remains to be seen. Will the national race be close? Will it come down to one state, and maybe a mid-Western one where Pence is maybe a difference-maker? Will he better or worse than expected on the politicking part of it?
Pence has publicly differed with Trump for years, endorsed Ted Cruz this spring, and made no move to enter the 2016 race himself, so what does HE think he’s doing? Setting up for a future run for the top job from the vice-presidency, in 2020, or 2024 (when he will be 65)?
Hope it turns out better for him than Cactus Jack Garner.