Mike Pence’s Defense Strategy: Dodge and Deflect Donald Trump’s Words

When his Democratic rival, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, delivered a scorching rebuke of Mr. Trump’s affection for autocrats like Vladimir V. Putin and Saddam Hussein, both of whom he has praised, Mr. Pence, the governor of Indiana, looked over, weighed the message and promptly changed the subject.

“Did you work on that one a long time?” Mr. Pence mischievously asked his rival. “Because that had a lot of really creative lines in it.”

.. In Mr. Pence’s telling, it was the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, not Mr. Trump, who was running the “insult-driven campaign.”

.. Pressed on Mr. Trump’s startling and unsubstantiated claim that Mexico was sending rapists and criminals to the United States, Mr. Pence protested that his running mate had called some of those immigrants “good people.”

.. All running mates eventually play the role of human shield, sacrificing a measure of dignity and putting their future political prospects in jeopardy to protect the person at the top of the ticket.

.. In almost every conceivable way, he is Mr. Trump’s polar opposite: deeply religious, instinctively civil and conspicuously cautious — as at ease quoting from Scripture as Mr. Trump is mocking a woman’s physique.

.. Both were raised Roman Catholic — though Mr. Pence later became an evangelical Christian — in middle-class Midwestern families of Irish ancestry. Both have sons serving in the Marines.

.. When Mr. Kaine reminded Mr. Pence, once again, of Mr. Trump’s denigrating description of immigrants from Mexico, Mr. Pence could hardly muster a reply. “You whipped out that Mexican thing again,” he observed, sounding more like an analyst than a participant in the debate.