THE BLOG
07/15/2016 06:09 pm ET | Updated Jul 15, 2016

Understanding The Choice Of Mike Pence

It appears Donald Trump has made his choice for Vice President, the popular (at least in conservative circles) Mike Pence of Indiana. The governor has long been a conservative darling. When he was in the House leadership, he was the only one most rank and file members liked, let alone tolerated. In fact, some actually still hold a grudge against him for not attempting a coup against John Boehner in 2011 when over 60 new, very conservative House members made it possible for a GOP majority. Instead, the ambitious Pence played around with a run for president and settled on being governor of Indiana, which is a position he holds today. However, his polling does not give any reason to believe that he will still be in that position after January. His vulnerability may be the exact reason why he is very interested in being Trump's VP nominee.

Pence is very well respected among traditional conservatives ("3 legged stool" conservatives who give social issues, economics, and national security equal priority) and they have come out in praise of the selection. American Conservative Union's Matt Schlapp could not contain his enthusiasm about Pence, saying in a statement, "This is a great day for conservatism and great news for conservatives. Governor Mike Pence is an excellent pick to be the Vice President. He is a proven leader who has worked with grassroots conservatives to advance policies and solutions that strengthen our economy, our national defense, and our families. His Reagan-esque approach, as a great communicator with the courage of his convictions, sends the signal to conservatives across America that Donald Trump is eager to bring Americans together to reject Hillary Clinton's plans to continue President Obama's radical agenda. We are proud to call Mike and his wife Karen friends of ACU and we are very pleased with this selection."

So, now that Trump has settled on Pence, people are asking what does this choice say about Trump? Here are a few of my observations:

Trump is not conservative. In spite of Schlapp's excitement about the choice, stating it "sends the signal to conservatives across America that Donald Trump is eager to bring Americans together," it also shows the billionaire recognizes his weak conservative credentials. Historically, the choice of vice president is based on balancing the ticket. When Ronald Reagan, the most conservative candidate in modern political history chose a vice presidential candidate, he looked to George Bush, who was the poster child of the GOP establishment. In 1998, moderate Bush chose one of the most conservative members of the US Senate in Dan Quayle as a running mate. This is typical and has been the case throughout history. Choosing someone who is considered one of the most conservative members of the GOP as a running mate, says something about Trump's own ideology. We know the billionaire has funded Democrat politicians at a much higher rate than Republicans over the years, that he has changed party affiliations often over the years, that he has funded his opponent's Clinton Foundation at the tune of $100,000, and has even advocated for a single payer healthcare system like Bernie Sanders. Instead of trying to explain away these inconsistencies, he is hoping Americans will forget about them with the choice of Pence.

Trump is more than willing to abandon his core constituency. Trump ran as the anti-establishment candidate from the beginning of his campaign and has blamed America's problems on the political class. Pence has spent almost his entire life working in public policy or as an elected official. If the problem is career politicians, as Trump argues, the choice of Pence sends a disturbing message to those who have powered his revolt against the establishment.

Trump plans on doing serious fundraising. One of the major reasons the billionaire was popular with his core constituency was because "no one can own him." Reality shows, he has not spent very much money compared to other candidates and lags way behind his general election opponent in raising dollars. He told Lester Holt of NBC that he would go for Wall Street money ("a little"), but has shown no prowess to get it. One of the things Mike Pence is known for is his ability to raise money. The governor might find himself with a crooked finger at the end of the campaign after all the phone calling he will need to make to keep the Trump campaign financially relevant.

Trump knows he will have problems with a GOP controlled Congress. Trump has largely gotten weak endorsements from Republican members of Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who initially said he would not support Trump even as the inevitable nominee, finally gave the softest endorsement possible. Trump is going to have serious problems with Congress and will have to have a Pence to get things done.

In the end, this could all be academic. The incredibly volatile Trump could change his mind at any moment, even after the convention. The GOP has the most modest of hopes about winning in November. As his VP nominee, Pence might be glad just to make it that far.

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