From the midweek Morning Jolt:
Trump-Gingrich or Trump-Pence?
According to CNN, Trump’s running mate list is down to two names: former House Speaker Newt Ginrich and Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Feeling excited? Puzzled? Disappointed? Meh?
Jonah summarized the strengths and weaknesses of Gingrich well last week; he reinforces Trump’s strongest qualities (bold statements) as well as some of his weak spots.
Bill Clinton tapped Al Gore in 1992 to reinforce — rather than offset — his brand as a next-generation Southern moderate. (This was before Gore became a Silicon Valley cliché.) In many respects, a Trump-Gingrich ticket would also count as a “double-down” move (and not just in the sense that they’ve totaled six wives between them) — except that while Trump can’t offer much beyond the bumper sticker “Make America Great Again,” Gingrich has written books on “Renewing American Civilization.” Gingrich could complement Trump; he could be like the walking explanatory footnote to Trump’s every outburst.
Next to forecasting that bears will continue to use our national woodlands as latrines, the easiest prediction in the world to make is that Trump will say some outlandish things in the months to come. Gingrich’s job will be to explain why the outlandish isn’t outlandish.
But what’s perhaps most dispiriting about the prospect of a Trump-Gingrich ticket is the recognition that with a slew of great young GOP talent in governor’s mansions across the country, the Republican Party will offer the electorate of 2016 an episode of VH1’s “I Love the 90s.” An eighteen-year old voter was just born when Gingrich stepped down as speaker.
Does either man improve Trump’s odds of winning in November? You probably shouldn’t pick a potential president by their home state, but picking John Kasich might have helped a little bit in Ohio and picking Rick Scott might have helped a little bit in Florida. As noted in recent Jolts, picking retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn could have at least helped turn the election into a referendum on Obama’s counterterrorism policies.
Meanwhile, Mike Pence is a blank slate to many voters. Once introduced to him, Americans could like him a lot. But by being a blank slate, there’s a danger that Democrats will define him before he has a chance to define himself. Any early gaffe or mistake could have much bigger consequences. He’s a vice presidential nominee from Indiana; Democrats will try to paint him as Dan Quayle.
There was a time when Mike Pence on a presidential ticket would have seemed thrilling. Back in 2011, I wrote Pence was “the candidate with perhaps the best chance of uniting the, for lack of better terms, Tea Party and Establishment wings of the Republican Party. Pence is a thoroughly consistent conservative. But he doesn’t snarl, he’s rarely negative, and I can’t recall too many off-the-wall statements from him.” There was a time when you would call him one of the most principled conservatives in the GOP ranks, as Veronique de Rugy recalls:
Pence was one of the rare conservatives who stayed loyal to his free-market principles when he was in Congress during the Bush years. He voted against No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D, for instance, when so many of his colleagues went ahead and embraced bigger government policies in the name of politically driven compromise and government-induced competition.
But his political instincts seem to have failed him since then. He expanded Medicare after Obamacare was enacted, insisting that a couple window-dressing changes meant he was fighting the president’s health care law. He proposed a state-run news service, then abandoned the idea in the face of outrage. He was blindsided by opposition to his signing of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Right before the Indiana primary, Pence hemmed and hawed and offered a halting, half-hearted endorsement of Cruz.
Note that if Pence signs on with Trump, he can’t run for reelection this year under Indiana law, meaning his days as governor will come to an early end either way.
Is the governor ready for the Category Five Hurricane of scrutiny and attacks that will come from being Trump’s running mate?