It’s hard to think of a better encapsulation of #NeverTrump futility at this point than Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s presidential endorsement Friday. Sure, he endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz. But only after dishing out some effusive praise about the awesomeness that is Donald Trump. It was a pyrrhic endorsement that revealed a party establishment accepting its future.
Pence was in an interesting position. The conservative movement, of which Pence is a member, believes Cruz is its finest presidential vessel since Ronald Reagan. A loss in Indiana would nearly eliminate Cruz’s already-slim chances of keeping Trump below a first-ballot majority of delegates. Pence’s fellow conservative governors, like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, were urging him to do the right thing. But unlike, say, Scott Walker, Pence is up for re-election this year. He has noticed that there are many Trump supporters in his state. If the polls are true, these Trump supporters even represent a slight plurality of Republican primary voters in Indiana! For Pence to do what Walker did—run around the state with Cruz trashing Trump at every turn in a critical state with all eyes watching—would risk turning off part of the base.
So Pence finally said, OK, sure, why not, I’ll endorse Cruz. But you better not think I’ll do it enthusiastically, OK?
“I like and respect all three of the Republican candidates in the field,” Pence said. “I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”
OK, OK. Ready to endorse Cruz now?
“I am also particularly grateful that Donald Trump has taken a strong stand for Hoosier jobs when we saw jobs of the Carrier company abruptly announce leaving Indiana. Not for another state, but for Mexico. I’m grateful. I’m grateful for his voice in the national debate.”
Just get it out already.
“I’ve come to my decision about who I’m supporting, and I’m not against anybody.”
“But I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary.”
Finally! I’m exhausted.
It makes sense for vulnerable Republicans in blue states to run from Trump. Vulnerable Republicans in redder states like Indiana just need to do whatever it takes to get their bases out. And so we see mush like this.