Brilliant stroke, potential disaster, or maybe both? The Associated Press reports this morning that Chris Christie has some company on the short list for Donald Trump’s running-mate choice, and he’s not exactly a shrinking violet. In fact, Newt Gingrich might be the only potential VP candidate who could compete with the nominee for attention:
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has begun formally vetting prospective vice presidential picks.
The New York billionaire is considering former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, among what he previously described as a short list of possible running mates. Their inclusion was confirmed by people with direct knowledge of the vetting process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
Trump begins the vetting process with less than three weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention, when he said he would publicly unveil his pick.
Gingrich and Christie, who both received vetting paperwork in the last 24 hours, emerged as prominent Trump allies in recent months, even as the presumptive nominee faced deep and sustained skepticism from many GOP leaders. Trump’s relationship with other would-be running mates was badly strained in the bruising Republican primary season, leaving him with a small pool of willing and qualified candidates.
The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Karen Tumulty call Gingrich “the leading candidate” at the moment:
Donald Trump’s campaign has begun formally vetting possible running mates, with former House speaker Newt Gingrich emerging as the leading candidate, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But there are more than a half dozen others being discussed as possibilities, according to several people with knowledge of the process.
Given Trump’s unpredictability, campaign associates caution that the presumptive Republican nominee could still shake up his shortlist. But with little more than two weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention, Gingrich and Christie have been asked to submit documents and are being cast as favorites for the post inside the campaign. Gingrich in particular is the beneficiary of a drumbeat of support from Trump confidants such as Ben Carson.
A number of senators — including Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) — are also being reviewed as viable picks, although the extent to which they are being vetted is unclear. A longer shot on Trump’s radar is Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a heavyweight on the right who could bolster Trump’s tepid support among some conservative activists.
Gingrich at least brings more to the ticket for Trump than Christie does, at this point. Gingrich has a long track record within movement conservatism, and a reputation as an idea man that can think outside the box. Christie has governing experience, but the nominations of both major-party candidates (and the near-miss of the Bernie Sanders campaign) suggest strongly that voters aren’t putting a premium on that quality in 2016. Where Christie more or less fits into the Trumpian political paradigm of Northeastern Republicans, Gingrich would bring Southern conservatism to the ticket, and perhaps shore up states like Georgia and Arizona.
On the other hand, Gingrich brings … Gingrich. Already, rumors of Gingrich exhaustion within the campaign are emerging — constant e-mails and calls with unsolicited advice, although Trump appears to welcome it. Trump was a lot less welcoming of Gingrich’s public criticism about the attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, made even while Gingrich was promoting himself as a potential running mate. As late as 23 days ago, Gingrich called it “a really stupid mistake, and it took him about three days to learn,” thanks to his status as “a gifted amateur.” Gingrich also called it “inexcusable” three days prior to those remarks. Trump responded by calling Gingrich’s remarks “inappropriate,” which — given Trump’s propensity for bombast — was a relatively mild response.
That’s not exactly a great model for complementarity on a major-party ticket. Also, Gingrich’s own propensity for bombast might risk what no presidential candidate would allow, especially Trump — a running mate that could overshadow the top of the ticket. Besides, does Trump really need an attack dog as a running mate? He’s handling those duties himself, with apparent relish.
What Trump needs is a running mate that will calm Republicans and demonstrate seriousness, while providing some evidence that he plans on governing as a conservative if given the opportunity. With that in mind, he’d be a lot better off with Mike Pence, who has experience in governing and on Capitol Hill, and whose quiet professionalism would be much better suited to the role. If Trump wins, he could always make Gingrich his chief of staff — which would be a more influential role than running mate.