Donald Trump’s subdued tweet this morning announcing that Governor Mike Pence of Indiana will be his running mate puts an end to the endless speculation about whom he would choose – and the embarrassing spectacle of short-listers Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich acting like desperate ingénues on a casting couch.
But Pence is the wrong choice.
The GOP nominee-to-be and his presumptive Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton have popularity rates that suggest they are running for Public Executioner not Chief Executive of the United States. The Real Clear Politics average of national polls says 56.2 percent of those surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton. But Trump has her beat: His unfavorables are at an astounding 60 percent (around the level of public mistrust in the media he likes to pillory)
So they both need campaign partners who will attract the alienated and electrify the undecided.
That’s not what Trump will get from a rock-ribbed Republican evangelical like Pence.
Pence, who served in the House for a dozen years, checks a lot of the boxes for Trump: Washington experience, executive chops, social conservative, tax cutter, telegenic. But as Politico noted, the 57-year-old Pence has sworn off negative campaigning. So he’ll be more Golden Retriever than Rottweiler.
Of course, maybe Trump doesn’t need an attack dog since there isn’t an ankle he won’t bite or an associate he won’t sue when provoked. However, the problem is not only that Pence probably can’t fill that role, it’s that for all those on the Christian Right he may attract, his stances on gay rights and abortion may galvanize those on the left and some in the center.
And Mr. Electricity he’s not.
More important, Trump’s safe-choice pick of Pence also could play right into Clinton’s hands.
Now she has a chance to select a campaign partner who will speak to all those Democrats, independents and disaffected Republicans looking for a little truth and propriety in this carnival of an election – someone whose honesty is unimpeachable, whose sense of justice is proven and whose fearlessness offsets Clinton’s clumsy caution.
Talk is that her safe pick would be Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. But Kaine would just be Clinton’s Pence.