WASHINGTON — GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said Thursday he didn’t spend time in Tuesday’s debate defending some of Donald Trump’s past comments because Trump no longer believes what he said.
“It’s not Donald Trump’s position now,” Pence said on CNN when asked about Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States and his ethnicity-based attacks on an Indiana-born judge.
Before becoming Trump’s running mate, Pence called Trump’s comments about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel inappropriate. He said Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims was offensive and unconstitutional.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine repeatedly tried in Tuesday's vice presidential debate to get Indiana’s governor to repeat those past criticisms.
“When Donald Trump says Mexicans are rapists and criminals, Mexican immigrants, when Donald Trump says about your judge, a Hoosier judge, he said that Judge Curiel was unqualified to hear a case because his parents were Mexican, I can't imagine how you could defend that,” Kaine said.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo tried the same approach Thursday morning.
“You said Trump is wrong about categorically saying Muslims can’t get into this country,” he said to Pence. “Why not just own your own truth on those situations?”
Pence said Trump is not calling now for a ban on all Muslims, but to suspend immigration from countries compromised by terrorism.
“I understand why the other side wants to keep bringing up prior statements earlier in the campaign,” Pence said. “Donald Trump has said in this campaign that — that he has regretted the times that — that he didn't choose his words well, particularly where it's created, you know, personal pain for people.”
In a separate CNN interview, Kaine said the fact that some of the post-debate coverage has focused on Pence deflecting questions about Trump shows the success of the Democratic strategy of trying to keep Pence from scoring points against Kaine's running mate.
“None of the post-debate coverage was really anything about attacks on Hillary Clinton,” Kaine said.
The Virginia senator also said the fact that Trump was viewed as doing poorly in the first debate in contrast to Pence’s performance “has led to a number of stories suggesting that the GOP is really having buyer’s remorse about Donald Trump as their nominee.”
“I think that’s going to work on (Trump’s) head a little bit as he goes into prepping for the really important (presidential) debate on Sunday,” Kaine said.
Pence continued a post-debate bus tour into Pennsylvania Thursday, while Kaine campaigned in Nevada.
Contact Maureen Groppe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @mgroppe.