Mike Pence will have to flip-flop all night to square Trump’s views with his own at the vice presidential debate

Two thumbs up!
Two thumbs up!
Image: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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Governor Mike Pence delivered some scathing opinions during the Republican presidential primary.

Then, he was just the governor of Indiana, calling out a brash billionaire playing at politics. Now, Pence is the running mate of the very man who proposed banning Muslims from the United States, Donald Trump. And tonight, Pence will have to justify his change of heart–on this issue and many others–on the largest platform granted to the national second fiddle, the vice presidential debate.

These days, Pence says we should ban migrants by country. But he knows that won’t work, if only because an Appeals court ruling yesterday incinerated his attempt to block funding for refugees in Indiana on those grounds. The judge wrote that his policy was the “equivalent of his saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they’re black but because he’s afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive he isn’t discriminating.”

One of the judges who affirmed that ruling is on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court short-list.

And national religious tests aren’t the only area where Pence will need to do some dancing. On that stage, each attempt to defend his running mate tonight will also highlight why Pence is uniquely suited not to do so.

As we’ve noted before, Pence is a major fan of free trade, vociferously backing every Free Trade Agreement he’s ever seen and defending NAFTA. But since he hopped on the Trump behest—reportedly, as a mole for Paul Ryan and the rest of the party’s establishment—he’s had to embrace Trump’s decidedly protectionist leanings.

Now, he says he and Trump are for free trade, just through renegotiated bilateral agreements. Just like the Brexiteers!

And there’s more: Pence released his tax returns. Trump won’t. Trump is suspicious of NATO and loves Putin, Pence wants NATO to stand up to Putin. Trump went of out of his way to reach out to LGBT Americans at his convention, with mixed reception; Pence signed one of the harshest anti-LGBT laws in the country. Trump says he hates Obamacare; Pence signed on to the plan’s Medicaid expansion in Indiana.

Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, should have an easier time. Whatever his flaws, he can count on the shared political philosophy of his ticket to give him a foundation for his arguments. Pence, on the other hand, will need to argue for two—the establishment GOP, and whatever it is Trump stands for today.