Did Gingrich blow his chance at VP in his Hannity interview last night?

I tweeted at the time that Newt’s “deport the shari’a believers” idea was really just him trying to adjust to the GOP’s new identity as America’s National Front, but a friend tweeted back that not even the National Front would have gone as far as Newt did. If you believe Howard Fineman, Team Trump feels the same way.

Which, in hindsight, makes me regret even more that we didn’t get a Trump/Gingrich ticket. Imagine three months of campaigning where Trump had to clean up Newt’s rhetorical messes.

Irony of ironies, Gingrich probably thought he was helping his case with that flourish about Muslims on “Hannity.” I’m curious to know who Fineman’s source in “Trump’s circle” is, though. If this theory of how the Pence pick happened is correct, with Paul Manafort cunningly maneuvering his boss into choosing the “safe” guy over Gingrich, then the leak to Fineman might just be another part of Manafort’s game. The point of naming Pence VP is to signal that Trump’s more of a disciplined, mainstream pol than everyone realizes, right? Well, what better way to reinforce that than to whisper that Newt’s too much of a loose cannon even for Donald J. Trump? It fits with Trump’s revised “Muslim ban” too, another project likely championed by Manafort to smooth Trump’s rougher political edges. Trump used to want to ban Muslims from entering the country; now he wants to ban people from areas where there’s a high terrorist presence. Newt was doing politically incorrect Trump 1.0 shtick last night. Manafort’s busy with Trump 2.0 (or, really, 1.1). Hence, Pence.

The NYT, by the way, has heard the same stories as CNN and NBC did earlier of Trump reportedly complaining to aides late last night about being stuck with Pence. (Manafort pushed him to stick with him.) Fineman’s scoop might help clarify what happened there: Maybe Team Trump really was debating whether to go with Newt and then, with things up in the air, they saw the “Hannity” clip and decided he was too much trouble. Chilliness towards Newt does seem evident in this mini-scoop — or is this just how Trump deals with his associates?

And when his final announcement came on Friday, Mr. Trump caught at least one other vice-presidential finalist by surprise. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, said in an email a few minutes before 11 a.m. that he had yet to hear directly from the Trump campaign about its decision.

Did Newt find out he’d lost the VP race … on Twitter? He’s been shilling for Trump for months and attended a “VP tryout” rally with him last week and didn’t even merit a courtesy call?

Speaking of people with complicated relationships with Trump, here’s a tidbit via the Right Scoop that I couldn’t squeeze in anywhere else but which should whet your appetite for the convention. Ask a Ted Cruz fan what they think Cruz is planning to do next week during his speech in Cleveland and you’ll hear some variation of “give ’em hell.” Oh really?

Cruz’s team is drafting a convention speech that will focus on adherence to the Constitution, a calling card for conservatives and a potential contrast with Trump…

Yet Trump’s team maintains the right to approve — and re-write — Cruz’s remarks in what is expected to be a carefully scripted convention. The speech will be among the week’s most closely watched moments.

It’s a given that Cruz’s speech will be an “Up With Conservatism!” pep talk, but that’s A-OK by Trump. That’s the point of picking Pence, in fact. He wants wary conservatives to see him as conservative enough for their vote. Letting Cruz do his shtick at Trump’s convention helps Trump by suggesting that the new National Front is a big tent, big enough for a unified Republican vote this fall. Cruz “giving ’em hell” would require something beyond that, some criticism, however oblique, of Trump or Trumpism. Hardcore Cruz fans assured me last night on social media that Trump’s campaign can claim all it wants that it “maintains the right” to re-write Cruz’s remarks; the hard fact of the matter is that Cruz can say anything he wants once he’s in front of the mic and there’s nothing Trump can do. What’s the RNC going to do, send “the Sandman” onstage to sweep him off? Okay, then: I’ll go on record now as predicting that Cruz won’t say anything off-script next week. If he does, we’ll know, either because it’ll be plain from the tenor of his remarks that Team Trump wouldn’t have approved them or because Trump and his cronies will express their displeasure in the media the next day. Cruz isn’t going to Cleveland to sandbag Trump; he’s going there because he wants some conservative cri de coeur he can point back to in 2020 as proof that he kept the Reaganist faith even during the dark days of Trumpism. And yet the truth is inescapable that he’s aiding Trumpism by lending his voice to Trump’s GOP/National Front big-tent message. He’ll stay within the lines that Trump’s team draws for him. Watch.

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