Trump taps Pence to appease Republican 'establishment'

Choice of right-wing governor as vice presidential candidate seen as safe and solid for the party base.

    Donald Trump shakes hands with Mike Pence during a campaign event in New York [Evan Vucci/AP]
    Donald Trump shakes hands with Mike Pence during a campaign event in New York [Evan Vucci/AP]

    Cleveland, United States - The strains of The Rolling Stones singing "You can't always get want you want" had just faded away. A low cheer came from the crowd and Donald Trump strode on stage.

    It was perhaps an unfortunate choice of music given the reports that he wasn't entirely sure he wanted the man he was about to announce as his vice presidential pick to be by his side.

    In his gut, numerous reports suggest, Trump wanted to pick Chris Christie. He'd known the combative New Jersey governor for years. He was comfortable around him. And let's not forget he was the first establishment Republican to throw his support behind Trump.

    He liked Newt Gingrich. He liked his brain and he liked his Washington connections.

    But his top advisers were pushing him towards Mike Pence, the right-wing, socially conservative governor of Indiana.

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    Pence was spotted in New York on Thursday night, all ready for the big reveal on Friday. And even though Trump said he was delaying his announcement because of the attack in Nice, he still tweeted out his decision on Friday.

     Trump taps Mike Pence as running mate 

    The campaign also unveiled its Trump-Pence logo, which was immediately ridiculed on social media.

    It was nowhere to be seen at Saturday's event. Trump took his place on the podium with the solitary name of "Trump" emblazoned on the front.

    The presumptive Republican nominee was speaking without a prompter. You could tell. This was an unfocused meandering through the recent past.

    Several times he said "Now back to Mike Pence", as if he suddenly remembered the point of the event, before dashing off down another avenue of disjointed thoughts.

    Trump reminded us he was against the Iraq war. The man he picked as his vice president voted in favour of it. He reminded us he was against the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.  Pence as a congressman voted in favour. And he reminded us that before the Indiana primary, his vice presidential pick wanted Ted Cruz to win. He suggested the governor really wanted to endorse him, but caved under pressure from "establishment" Republicans, which made his choice look weak and malleable.

    And one of his big reasons for picking Pence: "Party unity. I have to be honest. So many people have said 'party unity'. Because I'm an outsider. I don't want to be an outsider."

    Normally politicians will tell you their choice would be a great president if something happened to them; that they have great people skills, or will add so much to any administration. This was the full, unvarnished truth from the businessman. It's what has won him a lot of support.

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    So after 28 minutes, which focused mainly on himself, Donald Trump formally introduced his vice presidential pick. Pence, tall and grey, walked purposefully on stage. The two men shook hands, Trump patted him on the shoulder and walked off stage. No posing together, no triumphant punching of the air. It was a thumbs-up and a step to the side.

    Pence spoke for 12 minutes. He was deliberate and focused. He insisted he was a "pretty basic guy: a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order". He praised God for bringing him such an opportunity, and thanked Donald Trump for putting him on the ticket.

    Pence - a former conservative talk radio host - is well liked by the right wing of the Republican Party. A social conservative, he has opposed changes in abortion laws.  But he's best known as the governor who signed a religious freedom law in his state that critics claimed cleared the way for discrimination against the LBGT community in Indiana. The outcry against the law was so strong that he was forced to amend it.

    The Republican establishment will hope that he helps to unify the party which, despite all its claims, is deeply split. He'll help lock down core support. Many conservatives can now tell themselves they are voting for Pence, rather than Trump. 

    The problem the Trump campaign has is that this choice is unlikely to broaden his support base. Few independents or wavering Democrats - and there are more than a few of them - will suddenly decide to vote Republican because Mike Pence is on the ticket.

    Vice-presidential picks can help tickets win; think Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy. Or they can scare voters away: think Sarah Palin and John McCain. The first rule is "Do no harm". Mike Pence will arrive here in Cleveland as a safe solid pick. Certainly not an exciting one. 

     The Rise of Trump - Fault Lines

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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