It seems that truly nothing — not even party unity — is sacred in this year's general election season. On Sunday, Republican nominee Donald Trump threw vice presidential nominee Mike Pence under the bus when he openly disagreed with Pence on the presidential debate stage. After a rocky few days in the Trump-Pence relationship, the debate moment seemed like a potential breaking point.
During Sunday's presidential debate, the second one of this year's general election, Trump stated plainly that he disagreed with Gov. Pence on the issue of Syria. His opposition to Pence came off not just as an affront to Pence, but really as a point of contention with conventional Republican wisdom. The primetime disagreement came at a time when Pence was already wary of his commitment to Trump.
That wariness came largely from comments that Trump made in 2005 about his physical behavior toward women. The Washington Post published a recording of the conversation that Trump had with then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush. In the recording, Trump is heard describing his advances towards a married woman and claiming that his celebrity status allowed him to act more provocatively around women. Trump apologized and brushed the comments off as "locker-room banter," but Pence was understandably troubled by Trump's words.
"I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them," Pence said in a statement, according to The Indianapolis Star, from Pence's home state. According to the Star, a source close to Pence reported that the Indiana governor had doubted whether or not to stick by his running mate. After Sunday's debate, Pence tweeted his support for Trump, making it clear to all the nay-sayers that he would, indeed, continue forward with the campaign.
The tweet was made even more noteworthy by Trump's comments about Pence during the debate. When asked about Syria, Trump made it clear that he disagreed with Pence, who recently implied that the U.S. may need to intervene militarily in Syria if Russia continues to support the other side.
He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree. Syria is no longer Syria. I believe we have to get ISIS. We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved.
Ahead of Sunday's debate, Pence wasn't the only Republican to reconsider his support of Trump. On Saturday, Republican Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee himself, withdrew his support of Trump. "No woman should ever be victimized by this kind of inappropriate behavior," McCain said of Trump. "He alone bears the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences." Meanwhile, several other Republican members of Congress also withdrew their support of Trump in the wake of his 2005 comments.
For his part, Trump showed no signs of slowing his campaign down, no matter how many Republicans may want him to. He delivered his usual number of interruptions and excuses on the debate stage on Sunday. His comments ahead of the debate likely didn't help him to earn any new fans on either side of the aisle.