Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Trump Ticket?

Who is Trump going to pick for his VP running mate?

That is the question that I have been asked more than any over the last month.

I have delayed writing about it because I have no earthly idea. Donald Trump plays to the beat of his own drummer. It is hard to predict what he will do.

A little over a year ago, just before Trump officially got in the race, I was sitting with a group of friends talking politics and the question arose as to who would be a good running mate for Trump if he won the nomination. (Yes, there were some of us that did not dismiss that idea as completely out of hand).

My answer at that time---Mitt Romney.

I knew that Trump would be a bombastic, bomb thrower and figured the most important thing he would need as a running mate would be someone with stability and stature with voters. I figured Trump would benefit from having a responsible "designated driver" at his right hand to reassure voters.

Trump as CEO and Romney as COO. Trump as Mr. Outside and Romney as Mr. Inside. Two successful business executives who love their country and want to get it back on track by putting their nation ahead of their personal wealth and egos (at least with Romney).

It looked good on paper. That is the only place it looked good. It shows you why I am reluctant to even write about this subject right now.

My other dream running mate for Trump would be Condoleeza Rice. It would not get much better than having a smart, articulate, black woman on the ticket with Trump running against Hillary. She also would bring that "designated driver" credibility in addition to providing much needed foreign policy support for Trump. If Trump were able to convince her to join him on the ticket it would also show that this guy really can put some big deals together when he needs to.

There were reports today that Trump did reach out to Condi for her to consider the VP slot. This is encouraging as it shows that he is really thinking this through. Reports are that she rejected the overtures as I imagine a great deal of others of similar stature have done.

That brings us to the names that we are hearing the most speculation about in the press---Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, Mike Pence and General Michael Flynn.

Newt would bring a lot to the Trump ticket. He knows Washington. He know how Congress works. He is smart and he has some similar traits with Trump. I think he would be a significant asset to Trump. His downsides are his age--Newt is 73, three years older than Trump---and the considerable amount of political baggage he carries. He also would be much more difficult to manage and control which has to concern the political pros.

Christie jumped on the Trump train right after he got out of the race and was probably Trump's most loyal supporter along the way.  However, I have never sensed there is a particularly close chemistry between the two. I would be surprised if he is the pick but you also have to factor in that Trump has probably known Christie the longest of the four. Another interesting factor with Christie is that he was the prosecutor on the case that put the father of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in federal prison a decade ago. Kushner supposedly has a lot of influence with Trump. We may see how far that influence extends here.

Mike Pence is probably the best pick of the four on paper of those that are most prominently mentioned. He has good Washington experience, has Congressional leadership experience, is well-respected in Conservative circles and also has executive experience as Indiana's governor. He clearly is on the list because Paul Manafort (the Washington political operative) must be pushing him. I am not sure that Pence has the media presence or experience to play in the big leagues right now with Trump. I would be nervous about him if I were Trump.  However, if he is selected it will say a lot about the influence of Manafort on the campaign. Pence would be someone that the pros would be confident they could handle and direct. Is Trump listening to the pros?

General Michael Flynn came out of left field as a possible VP candidate last week with a lot of fanfare. He is the type of guy I think Trump would like to align with. First of all, he is a registered Democrat which I think plays to the type of image that Trump is trying to create in the General Election. He does not want to be typecast. He is running on the Republican ticket but he wants to make it feel to the voters that he is running as an Independent. I quite frankly don't think Flynn is ready for prime time based on what I have seen on the Sunday shows. Politics is an art and those who have not been schooled in the art have difficulty on the big stage. The obvious exception is Trump but he has had years on the media stage to refine his craft.

Of these four, I would select Newt. He is smart, tested and knows how the game is played. Like Trump, he is not easily scripted or typecast. However, he is a potential nightmare for someone like Paul Manafort who will try to run a disciplined campaign and will have to spend all of his time just trying to keep Trump on message.

However, my sense is that if Trump is truly running the show he is going to select someone who we have not heard a lot about in all the speculation. Trump loves theatrics and we could very find that all of the names that have been floated are decoys. Trump would undoubtedly like to pull a surprise of sorts. I think it is in his DNA. It also makes for more sustained press coverage when a new face emerges that has not already been profiled on the cable shows and the Sunday paper.

One choice would be Rick Santorum. He has a lot going for him if you were thinking about it from Trump's perspective.

He is only 58 but served two terms as a U.S. Senator and two terms as a U.S. Congressman in addition to running for the Republican nomination for President twice.

He is an economic populist much like Trump. He has long argued for bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. and being a champion for working class voters. He was also one of the few GOP members of Congress in 1993 to vote against NAFTA.

He has solid Conservative credentials as well as a good grasp of foreign policy issues as well as consistently arguing about the need to confront radical Islamic terrorism.

Santorum, although he was opposing Trump for the nomination in 2016, never was on the same debate stage with Trump as he never made it off the undercard debate due to low poll numbers. Therefore, there are no bad video clips of Trump-Santorum exchanges but Rick did endorse Rubio after he dropped out (Bad move, Rick!).

The interesting thing about Trump's pick is not so much the name but what it tells us about Trump's thinking and decision making.

My sense of Trump from all that I have seen and read is that he thinks things through pretty strategically but he trusts his instincts and his gut when the final decision is made.

What will he do here?

Will he follow the advice of his political handlers and select Pence?

Is he willing to roll the dice with Newt who would probably be the favorite with the GOP base voters but would be a harder sell with general election voters?

Does he rely on the familiarity and loyalty of Chris Christie if he doesn't feel good about the other choices?

Will he surprise us all with someone like General Flynn or someone whose name has not been leaked at all?

The Trump Ticket?

Mark me down as stumped.

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