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Mike Pence just destroyed Trump’s chances of winning over Bernie Sanders voters

Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Indiana Governor Mike Pence after Trump introduced Pence as his vice presidential running mate in New York City, July 16, 2016.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Indiana Governor Mike Pence after Trump introduced Pence as his vice presidential running mate in New York City, July 16, 2016.

If Donald Trump was hoping a large number of angry and disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters would vote for him, Mike Pence just crushed that dream.

Trump's choice of Pence, a Swiss-cheese Republican who evokes little emotion — positive or negative — as his running mate was clearly a play to appease an establishment base still in denial that a brash, anti-trade, anti-neocon, anti-kiss-the-Koch-Brothers'-ring reality star has taken over their regular order of pushing money around for the plutocrats.

But Pence, who is governor of Indiana — a state Trump won handily during the primary, and will likely win in the general election — offers nothing to the lost-at-sea Sanders voter whose frustration with the status quo makes them open to Trump.

"I was gonna vote for Trump if he picked a more moderate VP," Sanders supporter Shahid wrote on Facebook following the announcement of the Trump-Pence ticket on Saturday. "But now I'm all in for [Jill] Stein," the Green Party candidate for president.

Another user wrote that the possibility of a President Pence, should something happen to Trump, was one step too far.

If Trump "had picked a more moderate person instead of the devil incarnate, he would have been more appealing,"Javiera C wrote. "We all know Trump will probably get impeached in the first year so his VP will be president."

Another Facebook user suggested Trump's pick of an establishment Republican like Pence taints his credentials as an anti-establishment outsider, while yet another vowed that Pence only increased her opposition to Trump.

Sure, a few social media comments don't represent a trend, but this kind of reaction only confirms existing tepid poll numbers for the Donald among #FeeltheBern-ers.

A recent Pew Research poll found just 9 percent of Sanders backers would vote for Trump; he did slightly better in a separate poll from Yik Yak, a location-based social media network, drawing 13 percent.

But picking a deeply religious, anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights, old white male probably won't boost those sagging numbers among a Sanders coalition made up, in large part, of young professional and millennial voters less religious and in favor of gay marriage and LGBT equality.

Even more toxic in Trump's quest to sway fed up Sanders supporters: Pence's religious-freedom law, that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gay customers, which he was forced to retreat from after a political firestorm.

That mess will now be thrust back into the national spotlight.

This level of discrimination will only disqualify Trump even further in the eyes of Sanders supporters, who are furious enough at political corruption and neoliberalism to vote against the Democratic Party, but, won't turn a blind eye to the type of discrimination their champion has fought against for decades.

In the end, Sanders supporters open to Trump won't be making their decision based on Trump or Pence; the majority of those I've met who are open to Trump have nothing nice to say about him. A vote for Trump would be nothing less than a protest vote against Hillary Clinton.

But the notion of a vice president, or potentially, President Pence, does nothing to close the deal with them.

Commentary by Jordan Chariton, a political reporter for The Young Turks, reporting on the presidential campaign trail. He can be seen on TYT Politics. Before TYT, Jordan was a reporter for TheWrap and TVNewser. Follow him on Twitter @JordanChariton.

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