Report: "95 percent" chance that Pence is Trump's pick for VP

Sounds like this is coming mainly from friends of Pence so take it for what it’s worth.

Can you imagine, after the mountains of crap Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie have eaten in defending Trump, if both end up passed over for a guy who didn’t back Trump in his own state’s primary? Whose shoes does Christie have to shine to get on a ticket somewhere?

The Trump election team boosted the Pence speculation Sunday by suddenly adding a campaign rally in Indianapolis to a fundraiser planned for Tuesday featuring Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence.

Several Republicans close to the campaign and to the governor have told The Times over the last 24 hours that they are now convinced it’ll be Mr. Pence.

Mr. Bopp, also a member of the convention’s rules committee, told The Times that the “rally made it a 95 percent probability it’s Pence.”

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Cardwell said that Sunday’s sudden addition of a Trump rally after the fundraising event was a complete change from Mr. Trump’s original schedule, which had called for a quick appearance at the fundraiser and equally quick exit from Indiana.

Eh, I don’t know if the Indiana rally means anything. Trump has been holding “VP tryouts” lately with the various contenders designed to build hype for his pick. He had Bob Corker introduce him at a rally recently before Corker took himself out of the running. Gingrich introduced him at another rally in Cincinnati last week and Christie’s set to campaign with him today in Virginia. Adding an Indiana appearance with Pence could just be a pro forma thing designed to signal that Pence is in the mix. On the other hand, Pence is the only one of the four to be asked to attend a rally in his own home state; if Trump is planning to announce him as VP, there’s no better place than Indiana. And Pence himself reportedly told Jeff Cardwell that he “needed to be sure to attend” (in the words of the Washington Times) the rally tomorrow, which implies that something too important to miss might be going down. Hmmmm.

Would Pence accept? You’d better believe it, reports Eliana Johnson. Which is interesting because her NRO colleague, Tim Alberta, reported not three months ago that Pence “loathes” Trump.

Several Pence allies say that he will accept the nomination if it is offered to him. Coming as it does from the man who led the principled conservative opposition to George W. Bush in Congress; who has long claimed to be “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order”; and whom the New York Times in 2006 dubbed “the perfect conservative,” the willingness to embrace Trump has come as a surprise to many.

It’s clear what Pence would bring to the Trump ticket. Trump has performed strongest among moderates, in particular with self-identified Republicans who are nonetheless registered Democrats, and choosing Pence would send a signal to anxious conservatives that the GOP nominee isn’t hell-bent on alienating them. Pence has both congressional and executive experience, and as a low-key policy wonk, he would strike different note on the campaign trail.

Pence favors a touchback amnesty too, just like Trump! They’re peas in a pod.

He’s up for reelection as governor this year and is facing a tough race. If he bails out now so that he can be Trump’s VP, he’ll trade one potential defeat that could derail his career for another potential defeat that could turn him into a top-flight presidential contender in 2020. Until this cycle Republicans have tended to gravitate to the “next in line” choice; maybe they still would have had Paul Ryan run this time. Pence would be next in line four years from now. Pence could also end up carrying less baggage than the usual losing-VP-turned-presidential-candidate insofar as no one will blame him if Trump loses. “Trump was an anchor so heavy,” people will say, “that no VP choice could have buoyed him.” The best-case scenario for Pence is that he ends up as vice president and a heavy favorite to succeed Trump as nominee. The likely worst-case scenario is that he ends up with national name recognition in a losing effort this year and the gratitude of various establishment conservatives who’ll appreciate him for lending Trump some gravitas on the ticket, positioning him well for 2020. That’s pretty good as far as worst-case scenarios go. The unlikely worst-case scenario is that Trump loses so miserably that it ignites a backlash on the right against those who enabled him, with Pence scapegoated for having agreed to legitimize Trump by becoming his VP. He is going to annoy some #NeverTrumpers by playing ball with Trump. But I think the need to keep Trump’s voters in the Republican fold after the election will mitigate any attempts to punish his most prominent toadies.

Contra the CW, I don’t think Pence’s main attraction for Trump is his conservatism. It’s an attraction, especially with hardcore social conservatives side-eyeing each other over Trump’s interest in pro-choicer Gen. Michael Flynn. It’ll make evangelicals and conservative wonks who are skeptical of Trump a little less skeptical despite Pence’s dubious Medicaid expansion and his retreat on Indiana’s RFRA law under fire from business interests. His chief virtue, though, is that he can exist happily outside the spotlight while Trump occupies center stage. That would have been hard for Christie and Gingrich, both of whom have never met a camera they didn’t like and both of whom have a knack for attention-stealing soundbites. Christie and Gingrich are also both widely disliked per opinion polling whereas Pence is an unknown. Pence is the sort of guy you’d pick if you never wanted to give a second thought to your VP choice the rest of the way. The party’s base kinda likes him, if not as much as it used to, and the rest of America has no opinion. He’s mildly helpful in unifying the GOP and does no damage otherwise. If ever there was a candidate who didn’t want or need a running mate muscling in on his buzz, it’s Trump. With Pence, he’d be as close to fulfilling that reality as he could get.

Update: On the other hand:

Does Pence really want to spend four months as Trump’s spinner-in-chief? Again, he couldn’t even bring himself to pick Trump over Cruz in the Indiana primary.