It should come as no surprise to anyone that the reality TV star running for president is good at building suspense for his pick of a running mate. He’s been in this boardroom before. This is the moment of the campaign for which he is perhaps most qualified.
Had Donald Trump gone to Gov. Mike Pence’s house with his family and it immediately leaked that Pence was the running mate, that would have been a whimper, not a bang. It’d have been the ultimate showman faux pas to do the expected in the expected way. And, in the Trump campaign philosophy, holding the audience is paramount.
Even attacking Hillary Clinton, his actual opponent, is sacrificed on the altar of entertainment. As Trump said in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s searing statement on Hillary’s email scandal, he’s “doing it [because] I feel I have to do it and it’s sort of boring.”
Some have bemoaned the presidential race turning into reality TV, as the amount of pop-culture ephemera and celebrity clout influencing the process increases each cycle. What a way to pick the leader of the free world, they say.
But isn’t the presidential race our oldest reality TV show? A televised popularity contest between two contestants (and occasionally a third underdog we briefly humor), each of whom is obsessed over and lauded by a devoted set of fans who think the other frontrunner is evil. There are plentiful daily recaps of each episode of this reality show, with hot takes aplenty on every twitch of every eyebrow from professional and hobbyist analysts alike. In an early season, a contestant was kicked off for not wearing makeup and sweating too much on camera.
When Trump picks his veep, we will watch a person who has no idea what he wants and sends contradictory signals every day choose between three men, one of whom doesn’t have a discernible job outside of being part of this reality TV universe. One man challenges him. One worships the ground he walks on. A third is a seemingly sensible, safe, nice-guy pick.
We are given hints and leaks and suggestive video to keep us guessing. If someone could get footage of The Donald having a heart-to-heart with Chris Harrison in front of a tacky indoor water feature surrounded by framed photos of Gingrich, Pence, and Christie, candles and gauche, purple drapery*, we’d really be doing this right. A surprise visit for “advice” from a be-Ray-Banned Joe Biden wouldn’t hurt either.
Friday, Trump will make a life-changing decision in the Most. Dramatic. Rose. Ceremony. Ever. We will find out whether conservatives can let down their walls. But we may never know who’s here for the right reasons.
*Pretty sure I just described every room at Mar-a-Lago and the Bachelor mansion.