Last Friday, Donald Trump announced he was choosing former Congressman and the current Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, as his running mate. Pence was a smart, pragmatic and safe choice. A choice that smooths Trump’s rough edges and gives him an in with Congress.
Last week, it was clear Trump had 4 choices; Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Pence. While Sessions and Christie were close friends with Trump they would have added little to his candidacy.
Trump is attempting to expand his appeal to women and minorities. You don’t do that by nominating an immigration die-hard like Sessions. Christie has experience and a temperament similar to Trump but he remains dogged by Bridgegate and is yesterday’s conservative star.
So that left Pence and Gingrich. It was clear Gingrich wanted the job. He went out of his way to campaign for Trump and sing the presumptive nominee’s praises. Pence wanted the job too. He tepidly endorsed Trump during the Indiana primary and began circulating to his staff and family he would gladly accept the VP slot if asked.
Ultimately, Pence had several things Gingrich could not match. The first was a strong, steady temperament. Pence had been a steady hand in Congress for Republicans in the Republican Study Conference. He also has been a strong Governor for his state. Unemployment is low and the Indiana’s economy is growing.
Secondly, Pence is far more conservative than Gingrich. Unlike Gingrich, Pence has never done a commercial to advocate for Climate Change with Pelosi on a park bench. Additionally, Pence has not proposed to build a base on the moon (kinda expensive). Most importantly for Trump though, Pence has a history of fighting for less spending and government. He pushed back against his party during the Bush years on No Child Left Behind and on Medicare Part D. Trump is seen as liberal to many conservatives so this can only help on that front.
Lastly, Pence is not dogged by a complicated ethical history. Gingrich is the only former Speaker to be censored by the House. When you are running against “Crooked Hillary” you don’t pick somebody who has a sorta “crooked” history. Additionally, Pence actually practices what he preaches on family values. Gingrich is a thrice divorced man who left a women who had cancer. Pence, well, his history is much more simplistic and ethical.
Finally, Pence has strong relations with Congress. He served with Ryan and over 70 other current Republicans in the House. He has ties to the RSC and knows how to build bridges on Capitol Hill. That is probably his biggest selling point in DC.
Still, he has downsides. Pence’s conservatism got him in hot water last year over LBGT and religious freedom issues. Additionally, Pence is relatively unknown to a large majority of the nation. Further, he is not perfectly in sync with Trump ideologically. Pence supported the Iraq War and pushed for immigration reform in 05 and 06.
Pence did embrace Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion but with a conservative twist. He successfully turned the expansion into a conservative reform by making enrollees pay premiums and these same enrollees if they are above the poverty line could be locked out of coverage if they don’t pay premiums. The state charges up to $25 in co-pays for individuals who visit the doctor inappropriately and the program is exempt from retroactively covering enrollees medical costs up to three months before they applied for coverage. Additionally, coverage is provided through private insurers and not CMS.
For all these faults and benefits however Sean Trende at RCP made a good point. Right now, the tightening in polls, at least nationally, is due to Clinton dropping and Trump staying steady. Voters are not yet sold on Trump as he is attacked non-stop on the airwaves by Clinton for his volatility. Picking Pence, a steady hand, won’t solve this problem but it can start to help.
Trump’s campaign has been beset by issue after issue. The way the VP selection was handled is not at all reassuring. That said, Pence was a smart, solid, and safe choice for Trump to make as VP. At the Convention and beyond he now has to build on that selection.