A former six-term member of Congress and now a governor, he is a serious pick who passes the “qualified” bar and doesn’t reinforce the “erratic” and “dangerous” attack on Trump in the same way that, say, Gingrich would. Democrats are already unloading on Pence as an ideologue, but that just illustrates some of the difficulties in running against Trump: The “he’s an ideologue” charge is in tension with a number of Trump’s heterodox beliefs, and is also in tension with the “he’s erratic” line of attack. In addition, Pence is a governor from a large, Midwestern state, a region where Trump probably needs to overperform recent Republicans in order to win.
Overall, Pence is probably about as good as it gets for Trump. A pick like him was probably necessary for the businessman to have a shot at winning the presidency. But he isn’t sufficient. Trump will still need a good convention, some solid debate performances, and a good campaign. On that last point, the erratic way in which the pick was disclosed, with leaks, second-guessing, and a delayed press conference, is hardly reassuring if you’re a Trump fan. But regardless, Trump is probably a step closer to the presidency than he was a week ago, and much closer than he was three weeks ago.