Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Mike Pence: Donald Trump's olive branch to conservatives ... or not?


UPDATE at 2:47 p.m.: All may not be as it seemed regarding Donald Trump's running mate. Both NBC News and the Washington Post have journalists reporting it's not definite that Mike Pence will be the running mate. Is the Trump campaign just trying to preserve/manufacture some intrigue for tomorrow's scheduled announcement, or could it truly be someone else? We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I've edited the language below to make clear this is all still speculative at this point.

ORIGINAL POST: It is being reported widely that Donald Trump has picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. Other than ( maybe ) shoring up Trump's standing in a traditionally red state that voted Democrat as recently as 2008, what would Pence bring to the presumptive ticket?

At one time, he would have been seen as a rock-solid conservative who could help reassure Trump doubters on the right. But his disastrous handling of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- signing it, then being embarrassingly unable to defend it, before ultimately rolling it back -- has nullified a lot of that sentiment .

Pence's past actions in Congress and statements during the early parts of this presidential campaign would seem to indicate an ideological balancing of the ticket. Examples:

Pence has spoken out in favor of NAFTA and Trade Promotion Authority for the president (at the time he spoke, George W. Bush was president):

And the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

And he spoke out against Trump's proposed ban of Muslims entering the country:

All of which might explain why Pence didn't endorse Trump before Indiana's last-chance-for-Never-Trump-folks primary in May.

So, would a Pence selection signal that Trump was extending an olive branch to those Republicans who disagree with him? In a normal election year, that would be a reasonable interpretation of such a choice. But this isn't a normal election year, so there's another possibility. Trump instead could be choosing someone who, to fit on the ticket, would repudiate all that by swearing allegiance to Trump. It would be the sharpest display (so far) of conservative acquiescence to a man who doesn't stand for many of the things conservatives stand for. And if the people mad about Pence's RFRA back-track are correct, Pence is just the sort of man to do it.

Maybe that's an overreach on my part, and Pence won't be made to abandon all that he believed before today. But something tells me a man who joked about another man "dropp(ing) to his knees" to win his endorsement isn't in the business of humility, or countenancing dissent.

ADDED at 2:17 p.m.: Whatever Trump's reasoning would be for choosing Pence, he's already alienated one super-fan:


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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.