VP debate creates a rising new star – perhaps for 2020

Didn’t work for Sarah Palin. 

Jess Wetterau, a registered Republican, was leaning to Hillary Clinton. Then she watched Mike Pence in Tuesday’s vice presidential debate.

“I’m really impressed by Pence,” said the 24-year-old finance analyst from Arlington, Virginia. She’s not going to vote for Donald Trump. But as many others did Tuesday, Wetterau found Pence instantly became the latest Republican star of the future.

Four of the 11 voters at a debate focus group in Virginia, one of the nation’s dozen swing states, said that if Pence were running for president, they’d consider supporting the governor of Indiana if he seeks the White House in the future.

The group was organized by McClatchy and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. It included four Democrats, four independents and three Republicans.

The voters were all from the Washington area, all but one from the Virginia suburbs where Democrats and centrist Republicans dominate. They had little taste for Trump, regarding him as too brash and often offensive.

But some preferred the conservative economics Republicans have preached for years, and saw Pence as a steady, thoughtful force.

“Oh yeah,” said Douglas Cheeseman, 27, a Republican, when asked if he could back Pence for president. Cheeseman, a consultant from Oakton, Virginia,, supported the GOP’s Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.

“What he did was give me peace of mind if Trump wins,” Cheeseman said, “but he doesn’t move me to Trump.” He’s behind Libertarian Gary Johnson this year.