With less than two weeks before the Republican National Convention, speculation is heating up about whom Donald Trump will pick to be his running mate. Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN., took himself out of the running. Explaining his decision in an interview with the The Washington Post, Corker said he expects Trump to pick someone by July 15, three days before the convention begins.
That is an interesting date because it’s the deadline for when Gov. Mike Pence, Coward-IN, would have to remove his name from the Indiana ballot if he were to run as Trump’s mate.
Other names are being batted around, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Trump says he has 10 names under consideration, including a couple of retired generals.
In a widely lampooned speech on Wednesday night, he talked up Newt Gingrich. As the Washington Examiner reported:
Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump praised former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during a rally Wednesday night, the first time the two campaigned together amid vice presidential chatter.
Throughout his speech in Cincinnati, Trump made multiple mentions of Gingrich, telling supporters after scores chanted “Newt! Newt! Newt!” at one point that Gingrich would be involved “one form or another” in a Trump administration. He also lauded him for being one of the conservatives who “gets it” and has come around to his side, unlike those still in the #NeverTrump crowd.
“I like that too. We like Newt,” Trump said as they chanted the former speaker’s name. “And I’ll tell you what, Newt has been my friend for a long time. And I’m not saying anything, and I’m not even telling Newt anything, but I can tell you in one form or another, Newt Gingrich is going to be involved in our government. That I can tell you. He’s going to be involved.”
“He’s smart. He’s tough,” Trump said before noting one obstacle. “Newt’s going to be involved if I can get approval from his wife.”
In a list of potential veeps I made in March, I put Newt Gingrich at the top. My thinking then was that it would be like Bill Clinton’s pick of Al Gore. Everyone told Clinton to pick someone to balance out his ticket but instead he picked another moderate Southern Democrat.
Months later, with Trump failing to unite the Republican Party behind him, failing to close the gap with his cartoonishly weak opponent, and struggling to run a campaign, much less a coherent one, picking a good vice president candidate is key.
Here are four reasons Trump should pick Gingrich:
(1) Gingrich Criticizes Trump Well
On MSNBC, Corker said that Trump’s best running mate would be his daughter Ivanka. He said the businesswoman would be ideal because she’s composed and brilliant. But what sets her apart is her ability to criticize her father respectfully and have him pay attention to her. Outside the Trump family, the only person who has gotten away with that is Newt Gingrich.
Whereas some Trump fans defend everything Trump says no matter how insane, Gingrich puts the best construction on his communications without going overboard. This was a month ago:
And yet by July 6, Trump was telling a crowd he wanted Gingrich highly involved in his administration. Gingrich isn’t in a subservient position with Trump, like Christie or other politicians found themselves. He’s managed to generally combine loyalty to Trump with independent thinking that preserves his dignity.
And the ability to thread that needle could come in more than handy as Trump will continue to be himself on the campaign trail.
(2) Gingrich Would Not Squander Gifts from the Electoral Gods
Trump powered through 16 GOP candidates on his way to the nomination. But once he got enough delegates, he failed to capitalize. That’s true even when he couldn’t be handed better gifts, such as the FBI director repudiating each and every claim Hillary Clinton made about her email scandal. Or even the FBI director bizarrely proving Trump’s talking points about D.C. elites being privileged in ways that ordinary Americans could only dream about.
On Wednesday morning, Trump said:
Convention speaker schedule to be released tomorrow. Let today be devoted to Crooked Hillary and the rigged system under which we live.
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2016
But that night he gave a speech in which he spent five minutes talking about a tweet he’d sent days ago that found its way to his campaign from an anti-semitic message board. The anti-Hillary tweet included a six-pointed star. He covered other topics, too, but after the end of the speech, he went back to talking about it:
Trump sold himself to Republican voters as the only candidate willing to go for the jugular against Clinton. And yet the day after FBI Director James Comey eviscerated Clinton for her mishandling of classified information, just before inexplicably recommending she be allowed to get away with it, Trump is talking about a Disney princess movie and defending himself against claims he’s anti-semitic.
There is no way that Gingrich would squander such an opportunity to stay on message against Clinton or her policies.
(3) Speaking of Policy
One of the best things about Trump is that, unlike most other politicians, he communicates a topline message instead of getting bogged down in policy details. But it’s one thing to remember to sell a vision and entirely another to not have any policy to bolster that vision.
Typical voters don’t care about policy nearly as much as inside-the-beltway or movement conservatives do, but if you don’t have any policy, voters will grow concerned. As of July, Trump hasn’t gotten comfortable with any policies his small team might have developed. And so he doesn’t talk about them.
Gingrich, on the other hand, understands how to blend the big vision with actual policy. It’s how he was able to win a Republican majority in 1994. The Contract With America had a topline message about Congress’ responsibility to serve Americans, and it was bolstered with very specific policy ideas.
Newt sometimes puts out weird big ideas — moon colonies, laptops for homeless people, etc. — but he actually thinks about the policy required to implement the ideas. Trump has big ideas — building a wall — but he doesn’t really understand how to craft the policy that will fix the United States’ broken immigration system.
(4) Gingrich Reassures
The two top candidates for president aren’t exactly the cream of the crop. Clinton wouldn’t be able to get a security clearance in the federal government if she weren’t president. She has gotten unimaginably wealthy off of big donors — foreign and domestic — who appreciate her close ties to the strings of power. And she has yet to make an even remotely compelling case for why she should be president. Trump is an outsider who has tapped into populist rage at the incompetence and corruption of those D.C. elites but has yet to convince a majority of voters he wouldn’t, for example, launch a nuclear war by accident.
In this context, Gingrich provides some reassurance. He has a track record of understanding how both Washington, D.C. and its political media work. He understands the significance of that media and how they have put their butts on the scale in favor of Democrats. He knows how to play hardball to achieve policy objectives but without completely alienating those not completely on board with his agenda.
Grassroots conservatives trust him, more or less, and the establishment can work with him, more or less.
Gingrich provides a much-needed boost of reasonableness in a race that has been both a fun display of populist uprising and a frustrating display of amateur-hour campaigning and insanity.
If Gingrich were named as a vice president who essentially operated as a chief of staff, many nervous Republicans who are looking on at Trump in horror might be convinced to support him enthusiastically. And in a year when the opponent is as corrupt, untrustworthy, and unlikable as Clinton, that would go a long way to helping Trump build some momentum.