Donald Trump is on the verge of crowning a contender as a running mate.
More than any candidate in memory, Trump’s options are limited by who is actually willing to run with him, a list that appears to be down to a governor in extremis, Indiana’s Mike Pence, and two figures hoping to have a political future, Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. None of them will help electorally, all have their downsides, but the former speaker is the superior choice.
Mike Pence is a stolid, respectable conservative who thinks running away and joining the carnival sounds alluring — in part, no doubt, because he’s at risk of his re-election for governor. But the carnival isn’t as much fun as it looks from a distance.
Trump is going to need a wingman who can believe six impossible things before breakfast; who can defend the Muslim travel ban during those times when it is Trump’s position and skate away from it during those times when it’s not; who can take any new controversy of the hour, defend it and explain it away; and who won’t ever let personal or philosophical standards get in the way.
RELATED: Trump-Gingrich or Trump-Pence?
There’s nothing to suggest that Mike Pence is up for the rigors of this political and media proving ground. The closest he’s come in his career was an unhappy experience defending his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. His low-key Midwestern persona would risk utterly disappearing, compared to Trump’s outsized personality. The party’s excitement over him would be low to undetectable.
#share#Chris Christie is another governor who is looking for an escape hatch. Christie would be greeted with a collective groan by the party. He is as unpopular in New Jersey as if he had been indicted. It doesn’t go over so well when a bunch of your childish and vindictive aides cause a days-long traffic jam to exact revenge on a minor opponent, and then you abandon the state for a forlorn presidential run.
Christie has pluses, no doubt. He has shown a willingness to prostitute himself to Trump and to defend the indefensible, making himself the Scottie Nell Hughes of GOP officeholders. He is an energetic campaigner and is comfortable around the media. He has just the right combination of bully-boy persona and self-abasing loyalty to make him alluring to Trump.
And, yet, Gingrich would be the better pick. Everyone knows the risks: Gingrich carries the baggage of his spectacular flameout as speaker; he is as undisciplined as Bill Clinton, although without the roguish charm; and he’s not going to be liked by anyone who isn’t already a fan.
But Gingrich has real advantages: He will generate some excitement among conservatives. He is a natural emissary to both the establishment and to the right. If his personality is not Trumpian, it is big enough not to seem overmatched.
#related#Gingrich’s big upside is that, perhaps outside of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, he is the most glib politician of the past 30 years. Not only will he ably defend Trump, he will put whatever Trump says in the most impressive light possible. You could shake Gingrich awake at 3 a.m. and tell him Trump just came out for nationalizing the banks, and he would rattle off a five-minute riff on how it has always been the policy of the future and the country is lucky to have such a radical agent of change.
Gingrich can embed Trumpism in a larger, more sophisticated argument about the country than Trump can, and do it vastly more eloquently. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a qualification for a VP pick, but Trump is running a media campaign, so he should pick the most compelling, deft media personality on offer, and that’s clearly Newt Gingrich.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2016 King Features Syndicate