What just happened?
Who hated and had enough power over Donald Trump that he forced Trump to announce Mike Pence as his vice presidential pick?
In the last few weeks, prediction markets and the media had reached something resembling a consensus on Trump’s top VP picks: Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, and possibly a general, like Michael Flynn.
Each potential pick had something going for them.
Jeff Sessions was the immigration pick. He was trusted, ideological, loyal, and brought decades of Washington experience to the table.
Chris Christie was the law and order pick. He was trusted, loyal, and shared Trump’s “tell it like it is” attitude.
Newt Gingrich was the national security pick, as well as the Clinton Killer. He was an early Trump supporter, fought the media, and brought decades of Washington experience to the table like Sessions. He was the man who impeached Bill Clinton, and who could claim credit for every good thing the Clintons did in the 90s.
A general like Michael Flynn also would have been a national security pick, as well as an anti-establishment pick of the highest caliber.
And then, Mike Pence.
What do you think of first when you hear the name Mike Pence?
If you’re like most people, you think “culture wars” and “endorsed Ted Cruz.”
Governor Mike Pence of Indiana endorsed Ted Cruz instead of Donald Trump shortly before the Indiana Republican primary in May. Donald Trump won the Indiana primary with 53% of the vote, and both Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out shortly afterwards.
Mike Pence was struggling with reelection in Indiana before being named as Trump’s apparent VP pick.
Why is someone so unpopular that they’re struggling with reelection in their home state failing upwards into the Republican Party’s VP slot? Why is Trump allowing this?
Donald Trump has been studiously avoiding the Culture War this election season. He hasn’t been talking about gay marriage. He hasn’t been talking about abortion. He is even OK with the Left’s transgender restrooms.
He has had good reasons too. The Left already won the Culture War. It is over. Gay marriage and abortion are legal, nationwide. Those battles were fought and conservatives lost them.
Donald Trump has focused his pitch instead on things that appeal to all Americans: jobs, trade, security, borders, and no more political correctness.
Trump’s pitch is simple: I will not fight over the pie. I will make the pie bigger for all Americans.
This pitch won Trump the Republican nomination and was threatening to bring the white working class entirely into the Republican Party.
But now he’s attached to Mike Pence.
The rationale so far for Mike Pence has been that he will balance Trump’s bombastic personality, reassuring both the establishment of the Republican Party as well as its conservative base.
For that to work, Mike Pence would have to be a giant in his own right — nothing less could balance out Trump. But Mike Pence is not a giant, he is a minnow. He is beloved by Trump’s enemies and unpopular with his own home state. Mike Pence will not balance out Trump, he will disappear next to him.
Except for one place: Democratic attack ads. Now Trump is vulnerable to a constant barrage of Culture War-themed attack ads: gay marriage, abortion, the War On Women(tm), ad nauseam.
Mike Pence is not charismatic or dynamic enough to counter these attacks. He couldn’t counter them when his Religious Freedom Restoration Act was attacked in Indiana last year. He couldn’t stand firm. He caved.
He was neither clever nor strong enough to win his war. And now he’s the VP pick. That is not a good sign.
And that’s not even touching the numerous policy positions that Trump and Pence disagree on:
Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.
— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) December 8, 2015
In an era when Islamic terrorism is a weekly occurrence, how can Trump possibly sell himself as the national security candidate with Mike Pence attached to his side?
Trump needs to win the Midwest, but Mike Pence, who was struggling with reelection in his home state of Indiana, can hardly help Trump win Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, or Wisconsin.
Mike Pence is an average stiff who should’ve been phased out of his gubernatorial campaign. Instead, he’s failing upwards into the VP slot.
The best thing to hope for from a Mike Pence VP is that everyone forgets about him and focuses on Trump. But Pence is so weak that the media and the Democrats will not allow that to happen. And Pence will not be able to defend himself.
Sessions, Christie, and Newt are all charismatic enough to stand their own ground, and even win battles for the Donald. That charisma alone is a requirement to survive a hostile media.
Pence does not have that charisma. He will be eaten alive.
Did you know the man Trump hired to vet Mike Pence is that same guy who vetted Sarah Palin for John McCain in 2008? His name is A. B. Culvahouse. Read more here. This represents a serious weakness in vetting by the Republican Party. Mike Pence is on track to become Trump’s Palin.
And Trump will suffer for it: both from having to defend Pence, and from the opportunity cost of not having a better partner.
VP picks buttress the nominee’s brand. What has happened to Trump’s brand as a result of this pick? Trump’s brand has just taken a turn away from jobs, trade, immigration, security, and winning, and towards losing at yet another culture war.
Think about it this way: Trump just chose for his VP a guy who LOST his culture war last year, endorsed the LOSING Republican Presidential candidate, and was on track to LOSING his reelection. Trump just sullied his brand with A LOSER. That is the worst thing possible for a candidate whose brand is WINNING.
Mike Pence could have been Jeb Bush’s VP pick. He could have been Ted Cruz’s pick. But he wasn’t supposed to be Donald J. Trump’s pick.
Mike Pence is a loser and so will Trump be if he doesn’t change his mind.
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