“Most Would Join His Ticket Only If He Kidnapped Their Children”: How Badly Will Trump Hurt Himself With His Choice Of A Running Mate?
When Donald Trump was asked by a local television station about his potential choice of a running mate, he responded, “Everybody wants it, that I can tell you.” Like many of the things Trump says, it was a laughably transparent lie; there are any number of Republicans who have said that they wouldn’t run with Trump, and that only counts the ones who have been asked by reporters. The number of prominent politicians interested in that job is pretty small, and you can’t blame them; while it’s possible to run on a losing ticket and emerge with your reputation intact (as Paul Ryan did), spending a few months going around the country talking about what a great president Donald Trump would be is unlikely to be a career booster. To emphasize the point, today Trump tweeted, “The only people who are not interested in being the V.P. pick are the people who have not been asked!” Which is actually much closer to the truth, since there are lots of people he hasn’t asked (he may not have actually asked anyone yet), and most of them would join his ticket only if Trump kidnapped their children.
Nevertheless, there are some willing to take that plunge into the unknown with Trump, and he’s been meeting with them as he gets closer to a decision. On Saturday he got together with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and today he’s meeting Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. The other names we’ve heard mentioned most often are former House speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who is managing Trump’s transition planning), and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose relationship with Trump seems based on their shared anger about immigration.
Of course, as a successful businessman who has hired many people, Trump will give this decision all the care and deliberation it deserves, arriving at a choice that nearly all Americans will praise for its wisdom and foresight.
Or maybe not. In fact, there are multiple forces pushing Trump to make a choice that will hurt him, not help him.
He wouldn’t be the first nominee to do so. The truth is that running mates almost never help the nominee win the election; at best, their selection provides a few days of positive news coverage that gives a small bump in the polls, which soon settle right back down to where they were before. The only times where a running mate had an appreciable impact on the race were those where they hurt their nominee, as Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin did.
So the best strategy is for the nominee to choose someone who would actually make a good vice president. Judging by what he’s said to this point, Trump might have a hard time determining who could perform well in the job, since he seems to have virtually no idea what the federal government does or how it works. But the most important factors are that the VP have a strong relationship with the president (vice presidents can’t be effective unless everyone knows they can speak for the president) and that he have a detailed knowledge of government. The ones who have been effective, such as Joe Biden and Dick Cheney (in George W. Bush’s first term, though less so in his second) are those with long experience in Washington that enabled them to navigate the federal government’s complexities to accomplish the tasks the president set out for them.
Trump has seemed to acknowledge this by saying that he wants someone with Washington experience as a running mate, an insider who can make up for what Trump himself lacks. But many of the people on his list don’t really qualify. Christie hasn’t served in Washington, and Ernst has been there only a year and a half, during which time she’s just been a backbench senator in a Congress that does almost nothing. Sessions has been in Washington for almost two decades, but he’s not exactly known as a legislative wizard, not to mention the fact that when people are calling your campaign racist, choosing the guy who once said that he thought members of the KKK were “were OK until I found out they smoked pot” might not be a great idea. Pence spent a decade in Congress, so he’d have a case to make, as would Gingrich, who engineered the GOP takeover of 1994, then went down in flames just a few years later after he oversaw the impeachment of Bill Clinton while simultaneously carrying on his own extramarital affair.
If those are the only options, one might think Pence is the obvious choice. He’s colorless, bland, uncharismatic and has the appropriate résumé. But is it really plausible that Donald Trump would make that kind of choice? Wouldn’t he want someone with a little more pizazz?
Now add in the fact that Trump is trailing in the polls, which increases the incentive to try to do something dramatic to dominate the news and shake up the race — which Trump is inclined to do anyway. Of course, that’s the same impulse that led John McCain to pick Palin.
The internal dynamics of the Trump campaign are opaque, but one can’t help but picture the candidate leaning back in his chair and saying, “I gotta tell ya, I really think Newt would be great,” at which everyone else in the room grinds their teeth and looks around nervously at one another, until someone finally speaks up and says, “Sir, the problem with Newt is that, well, everyone hates him. Republicans, Democrats, independents — nobody can stand the guy.” On the other hand, Newt is such a self-important, pretentious blowhard that he and Trump must get along great. He’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like, which might make him irresistible to Trump.
On the other hand, Trump might surprise us and choose a running mate who hasn’t been publicly discussed. He might be persuaded by his staff to choose someone sober and responsible. But given what has happened up until this point, the real surprise would be if Trump didn’t make a decision that looked bad on first glance, then revealed itself to be even worse than anyone had imagined.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 4, 2016
No comments yet.