According to Christian Broadcast News, Mike Pence’s endorsement of Ted Cruz on Friday “makes perfect sense.”
First of all, Pence and Cruz are both solid constitutional conservatives. Do they have a few differences? Sure, but those are on the margins. Pence’s views line up nicely with how Cruz sees the world. As two born-again evangelicals, they see the world through a biblical prism. Their worldviews are identical in nature.
Secondly, if Pence is looking at a future presidential run, he can’t afford to tick off the conservative grassroots of the Republican Party. A Trump endorsement would taint him in the future and potentially kill any chance of a future presidential run.
I can’t remember a more tepid, watered-down endorsement. Perhaps that’s because, according to Eliana Johnson of National Review, he’s in a tough reelection battle against former Indiana house speaker John Gregg, the same man he defeated by just 2.9 points when he was elected to the governorship four years ago. Since then, circumstances have changed. Once a widely popular governor whom conservatives twice encouraged to run for president, first in 2012 and then in 2016, Pence has seen his approval ratings fall sharply—by about 15 percentage points—since he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a year ago; fumbled his way through public appearances defending that decision; and tightened restrictions on abortion in the state. He has taken a hit with women and business interests.
Poor Governor Pence. You can’t blame him for being queasy. He came under intense pressure from conservative donors, politicians, and media figures—many of them close personal friends—to back Cruz. Had he sat on the fence, the growing chorus of allegations that he was putting his own career ahead of what many see as the fight for the survival of the Republican Party would endanger his reelection bid.
In an election year unlike any I can remember, endorsements just haven’t meant much and the question remains—will his make enough of a difference to stop Trump's march to the 1237 delegates needed for nomination or will it be the shot in the arm Cruz needs to survive? In a few days we’ll have the answer.