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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

‘Vote rigging,’ Russia, abortion put VP hopefuls off message

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and Democratic

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine shake hands after the debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Photo Credit: AP

One oddity that would have drawn attention in past presidential races gets only passing mention these days amid surprise disclosures, sexual-assault charges, doomsday warnings and fact-free rants.

The anomaly is this: Vice-presidential candidates differing sharply and earnestly from their running mates on important subjects.

Republican Donald Trump keeps pre-emptively bawling that the election is rigged against him (He said this of the Republican primaries until he won). Trump speaks without restraint of  “inner-city” conspiracies, thus throwing a stink bomb at the results well before people even go to the polls.

And yet GOP running mate Mike Pence said Sunday: “We will absolutely accept the result of the election.”

“Look, the American people will speak in an election that will culminate on November the 8th.”

In the same “Meet the Press” interview Sunday, Pence differed sharply from Trump on hacked Democratic emails. “Well, I think there’s more and more evidence that implicates Russia,” he said.

Only a week earlier, Trump said Democrat Hillary Clinton — who openly guesses at a hacking link to Trump-friendly Russian leaders — “doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking."

"Maybe there is no hacking,” he added. Whatever that means.

The Democratic side has its own divergence — a rather big one at that. Shortly after their nomination over the summer, Clinton and running-mate Tim Kaine revealed direclty opposing stances on abortion.

Kaine, a practicing Catholic, reaffirmed in July that he supports the Hyde Amendment, a 40-year-old provision that bars Medicaid plans from covering abortions except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.

But Clinton, like many other Democrats, is on the record in favor of rescinding the Hyde Amendment. In fact, the party’s 2016 platform for the first time included an explicit call for such a repeal. Abortion also will be a key issue for Supreme Court judges that the next president will appoint.

Of the two tickets, Trump-Pence has showed a more frequent divergence.

In the Oct. 4 vice-presidential debate against Kaine, Pence said the U.S. should be ready to use military force to hit “military targets of the [Russian-allied] Assad regime” in Syria in order to relieve besieged Aleppo.

“Provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength,” Pence said.

But last week, when asked about Pence’s comments, Trump said: “He and I haven’t spoken, and he and I disagree.” He also said Russia and Assad are “killing ISIS.”

That’s perhaps the most relevant departure.

Sometimes successful national tickets have consisted of former rivals such as Barack Obama and Joe Biden — or Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  

Before he joined Reagan's ticket, "Pappy" Bush called Reagan’s budget proposals “a voodoo economic policy.” But once on the ticket and elected, the vice-president tried to deny he ever said it -- that is, until a network located the video.

Sarah Palin, who in 2008 was Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s running mate, contradicted him on the issue of North Korea’s role in terrorism and famously kept “going rogue” on matters of campaign strategy.

But it is hard to recall McCain trying to dismiss the differences so clumsily as to say, "She and I haven't spoken." 


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