The case against Newt as Trump's VP

With only a couple of weeks to go before the convention, the armchair experts in the political press are describing this as “decision time” for Donald Trump in terms of selecting a running mate. The Donald’s team keeps insisting they’ll announce at the convention, but it won’t come as a huge surprise if it happens before that. (Nobody has waited until the convention for the announcement since the elder Bush’s selection of Dan Qualye almost 30 years ago.) We’re seeing a lot of talk about Christie, Sessions, Mike Pence or Mary Fallin, and Trump even had a meeting with Joni Ernst this week.

But for some reason much of the rumor mill at the eleventh hour seems to be centered around former Speaker Newt Gingrich. So what is it that makes that veteran warhorse of American political theater an attractive choice? The Washington Times runs down a few opinions on why Newt may get the nod.

Pastors and Pews founder David Lane, who trains preachers across the country to be Christian soldiers in conservatism’s cause, sees a certain uniqueness in Mr. Gingrich.

“Newt may be the only living former legislator who can walk in on Friday, January 20, 2017, with the working knowledge to orchestrate and drive an agenda for limited government, deregulation of business, lower taxes and return of control to the states,” Mr. Lane said.

“Besides helping pull the wagon to get Trump elected, Newt may be the only adult in the room when it comes to governing with the institutional knowledge and grit to make the hard decisions to save America,” the Los Angeles-based Mr. Lane added.

Mr. Gingrich wants the running-mate job. Just as important, over the past several months of advocacy for Mr. Trump, Mr. Gingrich has shown that, despite what some regard as an intimidatingly large vocabulary, 40 years of experience in politics, quick thinking and sharp humor, he can manage to extol the billionaire businessman’s virtues and explain his failures without upstaging him.

There’s a lot of praise for Newt in that article and I won’t argue with any of it. He’s an impressive figure, a powerful speaker and is generally regarded as one of the smarter people you’re likely to run into in politics. His breadth of experience in both governance and policy is beyond question. We’ve previously seen him on the debate stage and he was consistently one of the most powerful people in that setting though he failed to make the sale with the voting public at large. There’s so much to recommend Newt Gingrich that we’d need a hundred colums to cover it all.

He is also, in my opinion, the wrong guy at the wrong time for Trump to take with him on this ride.

One of the chief jobs of the veep pick is to be the somewhat grittier, nastier attack dog for the candidate, going after the opponent (in this case, Hillary Clinton) in ways which the candidate might wish to avoid. Newt has a lot of experience with the Clintons and would excel in this role, but is Trump really the kind of guy who needs that service provided to him? He’s constantly in full attack dog mode himself, so that comes out as something of a wash.

But even more so, for all of his admirable qualities and experience, Gingrich has a lot of baggage for Hillary’s team to dredge up. Regardless of the outcome, he had his own ethics investigation back in the day where a lot of questions were raised… questions which can once again be trotted out and thrown against the wall to see what sticks with the public. Some of this will be new information to younger voters who weren’t around for Newt’s heydays in the nineties. Also, his departure from his position as Speaker wasn’t without controversy.

Even if we sweep all of that aside, it just seems to me that the optics of a Gingrich pick are wrong for Trump in what will already clearly be a challenging election. This is a race built on the premise of the outsiders coming in with torches blazing, tossing out the elite establishment and overturning the tables of the money changers. Trump should probably get somebody with some experience in governing, but he’s going to want a fresh face who fits that mold. Newt Gingrich is about as much of an old school, legacy party boss as one could imagine. He is, in short, the power structure of the past rather than the leader of the approaching barbarian hordes of the future.

Personally, if The Donald wants a safe, known pick who still seems like a wild card, I think he should be looking at Christie. (He wasn’t going to carry New Jersey anyway.) If he wants to go the totally safe route, Pence would be hard to beat. But if he wants to really shake things up, he should probably consider Joni Ernst and trot out that hog castrating line again. Any of them would inject more outsider juice into the campaign than Newt, who has served his nation well but should probably remain in the role of surrogate for this campaign.