After some confusion, it is confirmed: Donald Trump has picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice-presidential running mate. After the terrorist attack in Nice last night, the Trump campaign announced, somewhat melodramatically, that it had postponed its Veep announcement ‘out of respect’. This led some pundits to suggest that all the reports yesterday saying that Trump had settled on Pence as his running mate had been misinformed. Well, they weren’t:
Mike Pence ticks a lot of right-wing boxes, and helps Trump appeal to old-fashioned Republican voters. Pence is a straight conservative, Reaganite figure. ‘Get government out the way’ is his core message. He is House Speaker Paul Ryan with a bit more All-American jaw. As Politico’s Mike Allen puts it, he could ‘bridge the establishment/business and evangelical/tea party wings of the GOP.’ He is popular, too, especially in his state of Indiana.
At the same time, however, Pence is a shockingly unTrump-like choice. He is far too normal a politician for a campaign that has specialised in being unusual. As the New York Times’s Ross Douthat put it, ‘If it’s Pence, it is the first time that Trump has bored us.’ Trump and his advisers must have noticed, however, the at best lukewarm reception to the news among his fan club online— Ann Coulter, for instance, tweeted ‘Off the top of my head, the only person who would be a worse VP than Pence is Newt [Gingrich]’.
Pence is bland. He is liked by the very establishment Republicans whom Trump has made it his mission to alienate and destroy. Pence goes down well with the old Bush-era coalition that likes low taxes and foreign wars. He ascribes to the Party agenda on free-trade; for instance, he supports the controversial TTIP agreement between the US and the EU, which Trump has opposed. Although a Catholic, Pence, as a strong pro-life advocate, should appeal to the right-wing evangelicals who plumped for Cruz ahead of Trump in the primaries.
Trump knows that, if he is to have any chance of reaching the White House, he must mobilise such voters as well as reaching out to independents and the disillusioned, non-partisan poor.