Before Donald Trump let slip on Thursday that his vice presidential running mate would be Indiana Governor Mike Pence, most odds were being laid on major Republican heavyweights Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie, both of whom have been known for their garish brassiness and unorthodox styles, not unlike Trump himself.
So while Trump held off officially announcing the VP slot until late Friday in light of the dreadful Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, speculation is now mounting on the billionaire’s motives for choosing a relatively unknown, staunchly conservative Bible-thumper with a more toned-down approach to politics.
But while the immediate public reaction to Trump’s vice presidential choice might have been a cross between Mike Who? and Say What?, in terms of winning the GOP presumptive nominee the election, Pence might just turn out to be a very wise choice.
While Trump often plays the role of political ingénue and boisterous buffoon, make no mistake: He is a shrewd and astute statesman who knows exactly how to control and dominate the partisan arena, and his choice of Pence was a move that was as calculated and thoroughly thought-out as any he has made in the recent past.
In the first place, Trump used the element of timing to his advantage.
He waited just along enough to tap his running mate to spark media and pundit curiosity and garner the support and endorsements of Gingrich and Christie, both of whom were wooing a VP nod from the unstoppable Donald. (Hell, he even got the tacit endorsement of former Defense Intelligence Agency head, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a registered democrat who he allegedly also vetted for the vice presidential spot.)
Also, by playing the waiting game before announcing his pick, Trump one again dominated the political headlines and managed to slip back into a dead-heat tie with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll earlier this week.
And then there was the choice of Pence himself.
Unlike Gingrich and Christie, Pence is not flamboyant, so he is unlikely to upstage Trump at next week’s Cleveland Convention, or any other time during the campaign.
Also, he doesn’t have as much political baggage as Gingrich and Christie, so he is less likely to alienate potential voters.
Pence also knows how to weigh his words and avoid controversy, thus ensuring that there will be no pigs-with-lipstick faux pas in Cleveland.
And Pence is a shoo-in for courting the evangelical right, which Trump has not always seen eye-to-eye with in the past.
An all-American Midwesterner with family values from a must-win state, Pence is seen as politically loyal and highly dependable, two qualities that Trump will definitely need as he moves forward in the final months of his campaign.
True, Pence’s anti-abortion stance might rustle the feathers of some of Trump’s more liberal supporters, but since the Indiana governor will pretty much be taking a backseat in most of Trump’s campaign bully pulpits, the Donald’s rowdy commentary is sure to drown out any pro-life rhetoric that the VP candidate might utter.
After all, Trump supporters generally tend to hear only what they want to hear from their messiah, and that is the GOP nominee’s biggest asset.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]