Mark Souder: Vice President Pence?
Thursday, July 07, 2016 10:09 AM
FORT WAYNE – The next step in this presidential campaign – at least the next logical step though both likely presidential nominees regularly slip in missteps that rather overwhelm normal progression – is the selection of vice presidential running mates.
There isn’t a lot of worldwide precedent for vice president with a king or queen. With Trump or Hillary occupying the throne, one conjures up a vision of a graying Prince Charles with great-grandchildren bouncing on his knee when he isn’t opening up a home and garden show somewhere.
On the other hand, this is the first time in my lifetime when the presumptive presidential nominee of both parties could blow up before they even become eligible for impeachment. Voters might actually think more about the back-up plan more than normal. I will focus on the Republicans, where accepting the veep slot entails far more risk. Trump has interjected some new variations of how to avoid consideration.
Method 1: Haley’s Comet. Disappear rapidly and only be identified by the trail of your departure. Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina began denying that she’d accept the job long before it became apparent that Trump would be the nominee.
Method 2: Love’s Goodbye. If your name is floated, say you don’t even want to be in the same room with the person. When a credible float was given to star Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah, she immediately announced that she could see no benefit to the people of Utah of her even attending the convention.
With no inside information at all, if Trump has an “inside” even in his own head, and assuming political logic (risky), here is my order of likelihood for Trump’s veep: 1) Who knows, 2) Pence, 3) Fallin, 4) Gingrich, 5) somebody who already said “no” like Kasich, or 6) Christie.
While the Trump campaign does not follow a normal political strategy, it is not that they aren’t politically savvy. Campaign manager Paul Manafort and Roger Stone were celebrated for less than above-board methods of destroying anyone who opposed them, but Stone and Manafort, Trump’s Svengalis, are seldom outsmarted. Lewandoski is a junior clone. The three aren’t the same as in traditional clones, but rather are methodological clones. They unsettle, use unorthodox methods that may or may not be ethical, challenge the outer boundaries of any rule or convention, and only are predictable if you try to assume unpredictability, and then they will hammer you with a traditional blow. They either win or flame out.
They also fight among themselves because they each one thinks he is the smartest. They also fight among themselves less than it appears to outsiders. They take turns getting fired so they can speak more “freely.” Then they influence the candidate, the others, and the media with public declarations. Some of those declarations are purposely not as appears (i.e. a form of secret code) and some are straightforward. It definitely keeps everyone unsettled and uncertain of how to respond. The trio fits Donald Trump perfectly. It is impossible to tell what idea is his and what belongs to one of the trio.
Lewandowski floated Pence’s name this past weekend for a purpose. Did he disagree with the others involved in the decision-making? Was it a media misdirect? Or was it a traditional float to see what the reactions would be? The answer of course is “yes,” it was probably a bit of everything.
I listed Mike Pence first because I think his choice makes most political sense for Trump for many reasons, and they (including Trump) are politically smarter than generally given credit for. Just because I don’t care for the group, Trump or his advisors, doesn’t mean that I don’t respect their abilities to dominate media for political purposes. In discussing the Pence competition, it clarifies why our governor makes so much political sense for Trump.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: A New York/New Jersey ticket is a Democrat strategy, and a poor one even for them; has no foreign policy experience; alienated conservatives during the primary; does have the huge Trump plus of having demonstrated the ability to be led around like a dog on a leash, barking when told to bark, yet a lapdog when told to shut up.
Newt Gingrich: While a brilliant idea guy, hard to imagine fitting both egos in the White House even counting the extra space in the Executive Office Building; former speaker but didn’t leave on a high note; tends to say what he thinks, not what Trump thinks.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin: Former congresswoman, current governor of Oklahoma, not likely to upstage Trump, pro-Israel (Diane and I were in Israel on an AIPAC trip with her), a successful female with a good life story; in Congress was well-liked but very conventional; in other words, a safe choice but likely wouldn’t add as much as Pence.
Mike Pence: Backed Cruz, popular among evangelicals, held a leadership post in the House (friendly with Speaker Paul Ryan), served on the International Relations Committee, hugely popular among friends of Israel because he is one of its greatest champions (do not underestimate this or the particular timing of Lewandowski even just floating his name), while the gay rights issue hurts him among liberals it actually counter-balances that Trump is pro-gay rights, like Fallin has a strong pro-NRA record.
Furthermore, Pence speaks well and calmly. He smiles rather than glowers. Proved while serving with Speaker John Boehner that he could swallow a lot out of loyalty, even when he disagreed. That certainly has been calculated into the Trump analysis. Pence is good at raising money among social, economic, and pro-Israel conservatives. Could be turned lose to fire up conservatives. He’s not good at being an attack dog, but Trump seems to want to do that himself. Regardless, anti-Hillary venom is probably something others will keep well covered.
Even in health care, Pence is an asset. With Trump being out there having preferred an alternative the Bernie Sanders approach (to the left of Clinton), while some conservatives didn’t like Pence’s Indiana compromise, Pence’s plan is something that Trump and most conservatives would likely be able to live with.
Mike Pence is the logical choice for veep. Why Pence would take it, or let it disrupt his gubernatorial campaign to even consider, is less clear.
Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana and a regular HPI contributor.