The Republican National Convention begins a week from today, and rumors are swirling that Donald Trump will make his VP announcement some time this week. The conservative Washington Times raised some eyebrows yesterday with a headline proclaiming that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has a 95% chance of being the pick. I wouldn’t call the Washington Times a credible source, but they do supply three reasons for their confidence.
First, they have a source in convention delegate James Bopp, who is reportedly close to Governor Pence. Mr. Bopp says that he was contacted by Indiana House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, who was looking for some advice on a potential gubernatorial run. This is significant because Pence is seeking reelection and he’ll have to remove himself from contention for governor by noon on July 15 if he wants to be on the ticket as a vice-presidential candidate. If Speaker Bosma is suddenly interested in running for governor, it’s probably because he knows or strongly suspects that Pence won’t be running for the position.
Second, the Washington Times has a source in Indiana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Cardwell, who says that he was contacted by people at the Republican National Committee and told to cancel a planned trip to Cleveland for a RNC meeting on Tuesday so he can be sure to attend a joint Trump/Pence rally in Indianapolis.
Third, the Trump/Pence rally is a late addition to the schedule. It was originally going to be nothing more than a high-priced fundraiser.
The Trump-Pence fundraiser already was a big deal, with tickets are going from $2,700 to $250,000. But its scheduled date falling so close to the July 18-21 Republican National Convention here was being interpreted by some political observers as ideal for a possible VP announcement by the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
The last bit of tea leaf-reading comes from remarks that Trump made last week at an appearance with Newt Gingrich. Trump assured the crowd that Gingrich would serve in some capacity in his administration, which many interpreted to mean that he won’t be Trump’s running mate.
If Trump truly is planning to make the announcement prior to the convention, then tomorrow’s rally would be a logical time to do it. It’s less clear what he thinks Gov. Pence can bring to the table.
Pence has the countenance of a humorless boarding school headmaster, and to call him a moral scold would be putting it mildly. His hostility to homosexuality is off the charts. Take a look at the following bullet points from Pence’s Agenda for the 107th Congress (typos in original):
• Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual’s as a “discreet and insular minority” entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.
• Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.
As a political question, the problem here is not so much that Pence’s record is offensive to the LGBT community as it is offensive to the entire Millennial generation and many more people besides. Even the business community wants nothing to do with Pence’s version of social conservatism.
After Gov. Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law on March 26th of last year, concern that it would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians was so intense that Salesforce.com and Angie’s List announced they would halt plans to expand in the state. The NCAA threatened to boycott Indiana for future basketball tournaments, and several mayors restricted business travel by city employees to the Hoosier State. Pence initially defended the law and said he wouldn’t change it, but by April 2, 2015, he felt compelled to sign followup legislation to try to reassure people that it wouldn’t sanction discrimination. Many people feel that the revised legislation still didn’t go far enough.
No one who followed Pence’s congressional career should have been surprised by his extremism as governor. He had served as the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, an organization known for its radicalism. He actually joined the Tea Party Caucus, an assembly of loons that was chaired by the certifiably crazy Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Pence called on Congress to pass a bill called the Child Custody Protection Act which would have required parental notification if a minor wanted to obtain any “contraceptive drugs or devices” at any Title X funded clinic. We saw what happened to Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s Senate campaign four years ago when he insisted that pregnancies resulting from rape and incest were gifts from God that should not be terminated. We know what happens when a victim of incest needs parental consent to get contraception. These are not popular or even acceptable beliefs about women’s rights or human sexuality.
If Pence is actually selected as Trump’s running mate, we’ll get into his full record, which is nutty and extreme on economic and foreign policy matters, too. But, for now, I’m just trying to figure out how Pence could conceivably help Trump in any way.
If Trump is using the same theory of the case that McCain used in picking Sarah Palin, that it was necessary to shore up weak support from the Christian conservative base, then we already saw that this is a losing strategy.
Selecting Pence will drive responsible business leaders even further into Clinton’s camp. It will severely alienate women and moderates on social issues. Millennials will flee in panic. And, once the press picks over Pence’s congressional record, any reassurance that Trump will have a steady hand to deal with Congress will be completely undermined.
Pence has actual negative charisma, so he won’t win over anyone by being smart or funny or charming.
He has executive experience, which is valuable, but his first term as governor has done little more than create a giant stain on Indiana’s national reputation.
Of course, if the alternatives are Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama, then Pence starts to look a little better.
Still, this selection doesn’t make any sense.
So, maybe it won’t actually happen?