Mar 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pence's presidential moment

Vice President Pence bumps with Washington state Governor Jay Inslee during a press conference March 5 near Tacoma. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence, often caricatured as the White House Yes Man, is doing many of the things critics wish President Trump would do.

The big picture: He's a daily, consistent presence on the airwaves. He provides useful info rather than random digressions. He leans on health and medical experts — both at public events and behind the scenes when he's chairing the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Pence, 60, a likely contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, has become one of the most praised administration officials during the virus crisis:

  • "I actually think he’s done a reasonably good job," popular tech author Scott Galloway, no fan of Trump, said on his Pivot podcast with Kara Swisher.
  • Politico media columnist Jack Shafer wrote after Pence's first virus press conferences: He "acted less like the 'coronavirus czar' and more like a good old-fashioned White House press secretary. He was calm. He was direct. He was polite in face of shouted, competing questions."

Part of Pence's persona goes back to his days as host of a syndicated talk radio show in Indiana — his job before he became a congressman, House Republican Conference chair and Indiana governor.

  • Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff, said the vice president "has an understanding of what people are looking for"— facts that are "straightforward, not alarmist."
  • "There's a lot misinformation and probably some hysteria in the news," Short added. "He's very consistent in saying that all the health experts tell us the risk of severe illness is small."

As first reported by Jonathan Swan, Pence yesterday sent the White House staff an email recommending "social distancing" and to "avoid physical contact."

  • It was the first staff-wide email Pence has sent across the complex during his time as vice president — and the latest sign the White House is shifting its posture against the pandemic.

The bottom line: Pence is still deferential to Trump — but that's what he signed up for.

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Mike Pence. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

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Why it matters: This is the first staff-wide email Pence has sent across the complex during his time as vice president — and is the latest sign the White House is shifting its posture against the pandemic.

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Vice President Mike Pence briefs reports at the White House on March 21. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

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Catch up quick: Pence said he elected to test for COVID-19 after a member his office tested positive on Friday. "Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual," Katie Miller, Pence's press secretary, said on Friday.

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Vice President Mike Pence appears in a pre-taped interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C. Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC

President Trump would "respect any decisions that are made at the state and local level" on actions to combat the novel coronavirus, including school shutdowns, Vice President Mike Pence told NBC in an interview airing Sunday.

Why it matters: COVID-19 is a major challenge for the Trump administration, with 66 infections and one death from the virus in the U.S., per a CDC statement Saturday. A poor response could be "politically devastating" for them, Axios' Alayna Treene and Sam Baker note.

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