July 13, 2016

I see that, according to The Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump is seeking a Trumpy running mate so he can be less Trumpy, and Mike Pence might be the perfect choice:

Donald Trump Wants an Attack Dog as His Running Mate

The candidate calls Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie his top picks

Donald Trump is looking for a running mate who can be a “fighter skilled in hand-to-hand combat” to help him parry criticism on the campaign trail, and he has narrowed his list to a handful of seasoned politicians.

Mr. Trump, in a telephone interview Tuesday, said his top picks include Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and a couple politicians who haven’t gotten as much attention, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

The New York businessman has said he wanted a seasoned government leader as a running mate. But in the interview, on the way to events with Mr. Pence in Indiana, Mr. Trump added a new criterion: He wants an attack dog.

“I’m getting attacked from all sides,” he said.

Having a staunch critic of the Democratic ticket would give Mr. Trump room to show he can be presidential, said one person familiar with the situation, rather than attacking his rivals as he did during the primaries.

The Indianapolis Star agrees that Pence is a pretty good faux-Trump:

A fiery Gov. Mike Pence praised Donald Trump and slammed Hillary Clinton during a rally in Westfield on Tuesday that was widely seen as an audition to become Trump’s running mate....

The attacks on Clinton were uncharacteristically fierce for Pence....

“That’s the most exciting I’d ever heard or seen the man,” said Lyle Enyeart, a Pence supporter from Warsaw. “Man, what a ball of fire there.”

But Politico tells us that Pence's value to Trump is that he's not Trumpy:

Mike Pence is ready to play Mr. Conventional to Donald Trump’s Mr. Unorthodox.

In the span of a five-minute speech on Tuesday, Pence quoted Ronald Reagan, juxtaposed “Wall Street” with “Main Street,” and slipped in a reference to his son’s military service, all in the measured cadences familiar to many political stump speeches, though alien to Trump’s.

The polished performance introducing Trump at a rally in Westfield, Indiana, solidified Pence as the vice presidential option best positioned to balance Trump’s unorthodox, often erratic, style with staid predictability -- but also as one unlikely to generate the same buzz as the showman at the top of the ticket.

Pence's speech delighted Trump, according to the Star:

Trump made no announcement, but seemed to relish teasing his Indiana audience with the prospect.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or your vice president. Who the hell knows! Good man,” Trump said at the end of a nearly hour-long speech to about 6,500 supporters at the Grand Park Events Center.

Or maybe Trump wasn't so delighted, according to Politico:

Taking the stage after Pence, Trump returned the praise, though less effusively. “How’s your governor doing by the way? Good, huh? I think so,” he said.

Because, according to another Politico story, Pence isn't really an attack dog by nature:

Donald Trump is looking for a running mate who can not only withstand the attacks of the Democratic machine, but one who can also hit back -- hard. And that could be bad news for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is one of the top candidates for the job....

The Indiana governor is ardently against negative campaigning. After losing two bruising campaigns for Congress, Pence penned a repentant essay in 1991 titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner.”

“Negative campaigning is wrong,” Pence wrote in the piece, which was published in the Indiana Policy Review....

And Trump, after telling The Wall Street Journal that Pence was one of his top choices, lavished more praise on Christie and Gingrich:

... Messrs. Christie and Gingrich [are] feisty and combative politicians that Mr. Trump called “two extraordinary warriors.” Saying that personal chemistry is also important, Mr. Trump said, “You either have it or you don’t. I clearly have it with Chris and Newt.”

The Washington Post says Pence and Christie are Trump's top two picks, according to "a Trump ally," "with Pence the more likely selection." CNN, "according to a person familiar with the deliberations," says that "two hopefuls -- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- appear to be the front-runners."

Everyone claims expertise, but nobody knows anything. That's often true inpolitics, and it's true especially this year because we're dealing with Trump, whose advisers (the press's sources) don't really seem to be in sync with him. They'd surely prefer it if he picked someone conventional and relatively untainted and stopped being his own attack dog -- but they have no control over him. He could pick Sessions, or General Mike Flynn, or Ivanka, or whatever his overheated synapses tell him to do.

And yet the press will describe whatever ticket he coughs up as carefully crafted and likely to do great damage to Hillary Clinton, because he isn't really going to pick Ivanka, and he's likely to pick a self-styled tough guy the press admires and/or regards as good copy. So there'll be a better ending than there should be for this mess of a vetting process.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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