Donald Trump’s selection of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate was probably one of the worst kept secrets of the 2016 presidential campaign. The Vice President short list included NJ Governor Chris Christie, former General Michael Flynn and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Reportedly, the choice ultimately came down to Pence and Gingrich.
Why Pence? Perhaps Gingrich may have said it best during his interview Wednesday July 13 with Sean Hannity. “In many ways, Donald Trump is like a pirate,” he said. “He’s outside the normal system, he gets things done, he’s bold, he’s actually like a figure out of a movie,” Gingrich said. “And in a lot of ways, my entire career has been a little like a pirate. I’ve taken on the establishment in both parties. I’ve been very prepared to fight the media.” …. “One very hard question he’s gotta weigh on the way to California – do you really want a two-pirate ticket or do you want to take a very solid guy?” Gingrich continued.
Well Trump went with “the solid guy”. Pence brings to the table a strong governance record in Indiana. He balanced the budget, cut spending and added new jobs. Pence who is a school choice proponent, eliminated Common Core in his state. “The turnaround and the strength of Indiana has been incredible, and I learned that when I campaigned there. And I learned that when I won that state in a landslide,” Trump said during the New York City press event where he formally announced his selection of Mike Pence as his Vice President.
On the other hand, the Never Trump movement clearly played a role in the Pence pick. “I think if you look at one of the big reasons that I chose Mike — and one of the reasons is party unity, I have to be honest. So many people have said party unity,” Trump commented. “Because I’m an outsider. I want to be an outsider. I think it’s one of the reasons I won in landslides.” The selection of Pence clearly brings Trump the social conservatives who are more likely to be open to him than if he picked an “East Coast Republican” like Chris Christie. Trump also did not shy away from mentioning that Pence did not initially endorse him. Pence originally endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “It was the single greatest non-endorsement I have had in my life,” Trump said.
As for Pence, in addition to his obvious selling points that he brings in the social and fiscal conservatives and will more than likely bring in the critical battleground state of Ohio, he offers the ticket a soft-spoken but strong communication style. Pence made a point in his acceptance speech of identifying himself as the father of a Marine which will clearly help with the veterans’ vote. Pence also has significant foreign policy experience. Before becoming Governor of Indiana in 2013, Pence served on the House Committee on International Relations (later renamed the Committee on Foreign Affairs) from 2003 to 2012. To that end, he has already come under scrutiny for his past comments about Trump’s ban on Muslims last fall. At the time, Pence described those comments as “unconstitutional”. Since he received the VP nod, Pence has made some efforts to nuance his past remarks. “I am very supportive of Donald Trump’s call to temporarily suspend immigration from countries where terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States,” Pence told Sean Hannity on Friday July 15 less than 24 hours after a radicalized individual plowed a 19-ton truck into a crowd celebrating independence day in the Riviera city of Nice France, killing 84 people including two Americans and injuring over 200.
Mike Pence also suits Donald Trump well in that he is already changing the dialogue about how individuals perceive Trump. “Donald Trump understands the frustrations and the hopes of the American people like no leader since Ronald Reagan. The American people are tired. We’re tired of being told that this is as good as it gets.” “As Ronald Reagan said, we’re tired of being told that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives better for us than we can plan them for ourselves. Donald Trump gets it and he understands the American people,” Pence added.
Mike Pence who describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican in that order”, appears to be the man who will help Donald Trump on his path to becoming more presidential as the campaign goes to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week.