Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. After a day of tripping over themselves in handling the running-mate selection, Team Trump appeared to have steadied themselves for an announcement this morning. After the terrorist attack in Nice, however, the campaign announced it would push the announcement off in light of the dozens killed:
In the wake of the attack in Nice, France which left more than 80 dead, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has decided to postpone his announcement as to who will be his running mate.
The real estate billionaire had planned to introduce VP pick at a news conference Friday morning in New York, but said on Twitter Thursday evening that he would be postponing the event “in light of the horrible attack.”
Campaign honcho Paul Manafort explained the decision on CNN … clumsily:
ON CNN, Manafort says Trump “emotionally reacted” to Nice attack and canceled VP announcement
— Holly Bailey (@hollybdc) July 15, 2016
This led to all sorts of ridicule on Twitter, in part because Trump has ridiculed other politicians for emotionalism in the past. (Note to Manafort: “Gut decision” sounds a lot better than “emotionally reacted.”) Others, including my pal and esteemed co-senior editor Allahpundit, argued that it had the whiff of McCain 2008 after I argued that this was the right call:
@EdMorrissey When McCain suspended his campaign over the financial crisis, he was pounded for it
— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) July 15, 2016
@EdMorrissey As president, you need to be able to continue to function even amid crisis, people said
— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) July 15, 2016
That’s absolutely true, but the two situations aren’t really analogous. McCain suspended his entire campaign, or at least declared he would … and in the end accomplished nothing for it. The only thing that got suspended last night was a press announcement, and even then only for a day at most. Had Trump declared that the announcement would go full speed ahead, his critics would have denounced him as heartless, and possibly of exploiting the tragedy for his own ends. Instead, the same critics are criticizing him for weakness in the face of terrorism.
But let’s game out the alternative. The main idea of all this build-up is really just to own a couple of news cycles, and perhaps in this case also to quell the minor mutiny on the RNC Rules Committee. That already got squelched, and there is no way to own the news cycle today in the wake of the Nice terror attack. Trump and his team know that, and they don’t want to get Pence (or whomever) buried by it. Holding off until the news cycle allows for more coverage makes this a smart move — and considering the carnage in France, also the right move. And I’m not exactly a Trump booster.
Also, there is a school of thought that instability and chaos abroad helps Trump in that it demonstrates the failure of Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton foreign and counterterrorism policies. If that’s the case — and I’m not terribly convinced that it works for Trump — then doesn’t it also make political sense not to provide a public-relations distraction to it? (Granted, this strategic point is not exactly a strength of Team Trump, as seen by their stepping all over James Comey’s indicting non-indictment of Hillary last week, but …)
It might not take an announcement anyway. Mike Pence has to withdraw his candidacy for a second term as governor by noon CT today, so either he gets the spot officially or he had better stay in — and the Indiana Republican Party could end up getting screwed. If Pence withdraws and the state party has a new candidate in by noon, it’s Pence.
The Associated Press reports that the announcement will come tomorrow, and that it’s Pence:
Donald Trump offered Mike Pence the job of vice president on Thursday, and Trump aides have told the Indiana governor the formal announcement could be made as soon as Saturday.
That’s according to a Republican with direct knowledge of the process, who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss the details of Trump’s search for a running mate.
The Republican says Trump made the offer on Thursday afternoon, before Pence traveled late Thursday to New York.
This gets the story out in time for discussion on the Sunday talk shows, and will provide a limited ramp up to the GOP convention kickoff Monday. That’s about the best that can be done under the circumstances.