On Wednesday night, Indiana Governor Mike Pence took the stage in Cleveland to deliver the most important speech of his life. In the process, he graciously brought the Republican Party together after Ted Cruz selfishly split it apart.
Rather than unite behind the shared goal of defeating Hillary Clinton, Cruz divided the convention to make the entire evening about his 2020 ambitions on the very night that the limelight was supposed to be on the man Donald Trump had chosen as his running mate.
But instead of accolades, the Texas Senator’s refusal to honor his pledge and support the Republican nominee inspired angry chants of “Endorse Trump!” from the delegates who booed him off the stage.
In a dog whistle to the Never Trump movement that was quickly capitalized on by Hillary Clinton, Cruz told the audience to “vote your conscience” – a phrase used by the anti-Trump “Free the Delegates” faction to encourage delegates to ignore the will of the voters they represent and back someone other than Trump.
His backstab will surely go down as one of the most selfish and ungracious convention stunts in modern political history. But in stark contrast to Cruz’s self-serving speech, Pence showed America what honor, graciousness, and humility looks like. It was a VP performance second only to Sarah Palin’s 2008 breakout moment, which was the best convention speech of any candidate in the post-Reagan era.
The plainspoken Hoosier governor took the podium before an angry convention and a betrayed conservative movement, and he bridged the divide by delivering a positive message rooted in the midwestern values that helped make America great and will make her great again. He showed the nation that he’s a stand up guy and the perfect man for Trump to have at his side in the disloyal quisling-infested cesspool that is Washington, D.C.
More importantly, Pence articulated the conservative principles that have animated the movement for the past half-century, and it’s that conservative movement which will decide Ted Cruz’s ultimate fate.
Cruz, who so clearly wanted to cast himself last night as Ronald Reagan circa 1976, forgot a crucial lesson from Reagan circa 1964.
When sore-loser establishment Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney (Mitt’s dad!) refused to lift a finger to help Barry Goldwater’s campaign, two men went all in for Goldwater and campaigned harder than anyone else. Those two men went on to become president – Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney (and his son!) never had a national political career because the conservative movement never forgot their slight.
Mike Pence has thrown all in for Trump, and that won’t be forgotten.