Eh, I’m skeptical. This is too Trump-y even for him.
You’ve heard of “too good to check”? This is too Trump to check.
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) July 15, 2016
I’m tempted to say that there’s no way anyone within the Trump campaign in a position to know that would dare leak it, but never forget that until a few weeks ago Team Trump was split between Corey Lewandowski’s guys and Paul Manafort’s guys. Manafort “won” when Lewandowski was fired but there are surely still Corey loyalists entrenched in the upper levels of Trumpmania.
And which network is it that Corey himself works for now? Right. CNN.
Erick Erickson has a related theory: What if Paul Manafort went a little further than he should have in pushing Pence?
A number of prominent Republicans at the VRWC meeting had heard Manafort orchestrated Pence’s nomination. Essentially, Manafort was on the ground in Cleveland where all the reporters were. He got Pence on the plane to New York and leaked that it was Pence before Trump or the family could change their minds.
Again, just rumor, but this all seems to fit now.
Yesterday, the Trump campaign denied it after “senior Republican officials in Cleveland” had confirmed it. Then Trump did multiple Fox interviews where he said he had not made up his mind while Republicans were still confirming Pence was the VP nominee. By 8pm last night the Trump campaign had pivoted to “Mr. Trump needs to speak for himself.”
Manafort is the chief advocate within Trump’s campaign for toning things down. He wants a more traditional operation with a more scripted candidate on the perfectly logical assumption that all Trump needs to do to beat a candidate as terrible as Hillary is convince people they can trust him to be a responsible leader. The less of a loose cannon he is, the more confident voters will be. Picking Pence, which Manafort supposedly supported, is right in line with that. Choose the safe, boring, inoffensive guy with experience on the Hill and you’re showing swing voters — and the Rules Committee, which considered unbinding the delegates shortly after this happened — that they’re not signing up for anything too nutty in supporting Trump.
So you can imagine how concerned Manafort would be if, in the final few hours before having to decide, Trump started turning to his advisors and saying, “I’ve got a good feeling about Newt.” Trump was about to destroy Manafort’s best-laid plans to “normalize” him. It was a decisive moment. What could Manafort do? Why … he could quietly leak that Pence was the pick, setting in motion a media frenzy that painted Trump into a corner in which, if he didn’t pick Pence, it would look as though he’d changed his mind at the last second. That would make him appear indecisive; it would also be viewed as a betrayal of Pence, who was facing a deadline to run again for governor. And that would explain why, if CNN’s scoop is true, Trump was having doubts late last night. If he’d never really picked Pence to begin with but had had his hand forced by Manafort, go figure that he’d resist until the final moments. And go figure that Corey loyalists in the Trump campaign would want that resistance known publicly to punish Manafort and humiliate his guy Pence.
Or maybe that’s all wrong and Trump’s love affair with Newt was suddenly rekindled late last night when he saw that “loyalty oaths for Muslims” interview. Either way, Team Trump naturally denies that there’s anything to CNN’s claim.
If you’re Mike Pence, you’ve got to be pretty excited about joining this well-oiled machine today, huh? Stay tuned.
Update: NBC has its own sources whispering to them about cold feet:
Sources tell me @realDonaldTrump was on phone till midnight making calls, asking if he could change course on VP pick
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) July 15, 2016