Team Trump’s been adamant all day that, despite what the media would have you believe, no decision has been reached. As of 4:30 ET they were still telling reporters that Trump’s mulling things over:
"No call yet" – that's what top Trump aide Rick Gates just told me when I asked if Trump has made a call/offer
— Robert Costa (@costareports) July 14, 2016
“By mid-afternoon Thursday,” says WaPo, “two senior Trump campaign officials said Trump had not yet called Pence to offer him the job or reached out to any other vice-presidential hopeful.” More: “Republicans familiar with the celebrity mogul candidate’s deliberations said that he could spring a surprise.” Trump being Trump, he’s probably just annoyed that the news about Pence leaked and spoiled the showmanship of tomorrow’s grand unveiling so he’s putting out disinformation to try to restore it.
Then again, Trump being Trump, if ever there was a candidate who really might leak the wrong name in order to enhance the surprise of his real choice, it’s him.
Increasingly I think that Pence is a head fake, although he may not know it yet. The pairing just seems too odd, Trump larger than life and Pence the most generic conservative imaginable. (Although a little generic-ness against such a terrible Democratic opponent isn’t necessarily a bad thing.) Pence is inoffensive to most conservatives but he’s not much of a populist — free trade and an incredibly stupid amnesty plan? — and he has nothing remotely like the rock-star charisma that a conservative star like Sarah Palin had circa 2008. Trump prides himself on being a high-energy politically incorrect candidate. Pence is low energy and as safe as it gets. A traditional nominee would think twice about Gingrich and Christie for fear of being drowned out or saddled with old controversies but Trump’s persona is so overwhelming that there seems little chance of that happening to him. If anyone can get away with a risky pick, he can. Jonathan Last:
As Rich Lowry put it, “You could shake Gingrich awake at 3 a.m., tell him Trump just came out for nationalizing the banks, and he would rattle off a five-minute riff on how it has always been the policy of the future and the country is lucky to have such a radical agent of change.”
Does Gingrich have problems? Sure. But from an electoral standpoint, all of his problems are dwarfed by Trump’s problems. Gingrich isn’t popular, but is more popular than Trump. His personal problems are nothing compared with Trump’s history. Four years ago, Gingrich was viewed as too out there to be president. Next to Trump, he’s Lincoln, Adams, and FDR all rolled into one.
Last thinks Trump may have blanched at Newt because Gingrich is, for all his faults, a major political figure of the last several decades and Trump would have grown annoyed with people holding his VP in higher esteem. I don’t know about that: The Trump I know would revel in the idea of having a “towering figure” toadying to him constantly as America’s last, best hope. I’m going to roll the dice and guess that it’s Newt after all. The stories of heartbreak and betrayal from Team Pence tomorrow should be epic.
Or maybe not:
Confirmed. Mike Pence departed Mount Comfort airport at 4:10 headed to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Video on @WISHTV at 5.
— Jim Shella (@shellawish) July 14, 2016
I wouldn’t call that conclusive. It may be that Trump wants Gingrich, Christie, and Pence each to attend the announcement tomorrow, partly to rebuild suspense and partly as a show of party unity. They’re not well positioned to tell him no since there are probably administration jobs waiting for each of them if they play ball with the campaign. Although … not even Trump would be so cruel as to let the hype for Pence build and then have him right there on camera as Newt or Christie is crowned VP, would he? It has to be Pence. Matt Mackowiak floats an intriguing possibility: What if Trump announces Pence as VP and also announces Gingrich and Christie as cabinet officers, Secretary of Defense and AG, respectively? That would be an, er, interesting strategy of taking on baggage from three VP contenders when Trump is only obliged to take on one but it would be a way to placate all of them. Stay tuned!
Update: Supposedly it’s a done deal now:
CNN now reporting: Donald Trump has called IN Gov. Mike Pence to offer him VP slot and Pence accepted
— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) July 14, 2016