Amid the firestorm over lewd comments Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made on a 2005 video that was leaked to the press on Friday, all eyes have turned to his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Pence released a statement on Saturday saying he was “offended” by Trump’s conduct on the clip. A campaign source told Yahoo News that Pence thought it was urgent to condemn Trump’s behavior. The person also said Pence had decided not to attend a rally in Wisconsin, where he was scheduled to appear in place of Trump alongside Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Look, he is respectful of the role he’s in and would never even in a situation like this do anything to embarrass Trump or the campaign, but the fact is he canceled a public event,” the source said. “He made that decision. Gov. Pence thought it was important to denounce Trump’s actions and words and then give him an opportunity to speak to the American people.”
The source said that apart from expressing his personal distaste for Trump’s behavior, Pence plans to let his running mate speak for himself. Pence probably won’t make any public comments beyond his statement until after Trump’s Sunday debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“He’s made the decision not to spend an ounce of time or energy focusing on anything beyond the town hall on Sunday night,” the source said of Pence.
The Wisconsin rally was scheduled to be the first joint campaign appearance for Trump and Ryan. Trump had announced that Pence would be attending the event in his place after he was disinvited by Ryan following the emergence of the video.
An increasing number of prominent Republicans have suggested they want to see Pence take over as the party’s presidential nominee, including Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J. However, the source said Pence hasn’t shared his thoughts about that.
“Obviously a lot of people are saying that stuff, but this isn’t a conversation or topic he’s weighing in on, even privately,” the source said.
For his part, Trump said in Saturday afternoon newspaper interviews that he would “never withdraw” from the presidential race. And on Twitter, he also made his position clear:
The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly – I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2016
The Pence campaign source suggested that allowing Trump to respond to the video on his own is a good strategy for Pence and also the “respectful” thing for a running mate to do. They also said Pence believes Trump is really the best person to address the matter in public. Spokespeople for Pence and Trump did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Yahoo News.
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, Trump released a video in which he apologized for the clip, which showed him describing trying to “f***” a married woman and claiming he likes to kiss and “grab” women without necessarily being invited to do so. Trump also argued that his remarks paled in comparison to those of former President Bill Clinton, who was mired in multiple sex scandals while married to Hillary, and concluded by hinting he would air the Clinton family’s dirty laundry in the second presidential debate on Sunday.
Pence’s apparent decision to let Trump speak for himself is notable because in the past he has served as something of a translator and ambassador for the bombastic billionaire. In his stump speeches, Pence has repeatedly assured audiences that Trump is a “good man,” and the campaign believed he could serve as a validator for Trump among conservative Christians and the Washington establishment. That strategy seemed to pay off in the vice presidential debate last Tuesday night.
Pence was widely credited with presenting a more appealing version of Trump’s agenda, even though many critics pointed out that he spent much of the time denying several of Trump’s more controversial policies and comments.