Every politically engaged Hoosier knew that when Gov. Mike Pence left congress to run for governor in 2012, that part of the attraction was the ambitious opportunities being a governor would provide him.
Oh, how things have changed. Or have they?
Gov. Pence is being considered by the Trump campaign as a possible vice presidential nominee. Now for those of us watching Pence’s less than momentous reelection bid here at home, this might be a bit of a surprise. But there are plenty of folks who think he is one of Trump’s best available options, even though Pence didn’t even vote for Trump a little less than two months ago in Indiana’s primary.
The Hill ranked our governor at number four on their depth chart of options, and the first three are woefully inadequate choices. In that July 2 article, Jonathan Easley wrote: “Landing Pence would be a coup for Trump, if he can get him.”
Wow. Just wow.
Easley went on to acknowledge that “Pence is in a tight race for reelection as governor.” That seems like a throw away comment since the article’s top ranked contender is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who Easley describes as “deeply unpopular at home.” I will pile on here by saying that Trump is getting killed in New Jersey polls, and Christie apparently won’t help him there.
Let’s face it, The Donald could use a true conservative as his partner this fall. He clearly needs much more than that, but if he wants to win some voters from the far right who are planning on not voting for either party’s candidate right now, Pence can help. And while I personally will be a little ashamed if our governor joins the Trump ticket, I am confident if asked, our governor says yes, immediately.
In fact, as the semi-old adage goes: he had him at “hello.”
Considering this is personally a no brainer for Pence, but it is politically a problem for him if he is not picked.
Personally, he wants the bigger stage. Even if a Trump/Pence ticket gets creamed in the fall, which it will of course, Pence will be on the national stage for the remainder of his career. After eight years, even Sarah Palin can still fill a room. I can’t vouch for the collective intelligence of those in any of those rooms, but that’s another topic.
So what’s the down side for him? Again, personally, there doesn’t seem to be any.
Pence told reporters after the news of his consideration broke on Thursday that his “focus is here in the Hoosier state and that is where it will stay.” That is predictably right out of every campaign’s playbook, but we know better.
The time Pence is spending with Trump this weekend is a bigger deal than many Hoosiers seem to think. It is an indicator of many things here at home and none of them are good for the governor.
First, it is an acknowledgement that his reelection outlook is not very strong. If he had confidence in getting four more years here, wouldn’t he take it and work to rebuild his own brand for a presidential run in 2020? In a word: yes. Being on this ticket will be the last national ticket for anyone who is on it—because this campaign has the makings of a historic defeat.
Second, merely considering this VP spot could further estrange him from the voters he needs most in his gubernatorial race: moderate Republicans. The supporters Pence lost last year from RFRA, and then further alienated with his extreme stances on refugees and abortion, are not Trump supporters. Among other things, many of them are women.
If I were a Pence advisor, I would have tried to keep my weekend at The Donald’s a secret. But since I’m not, I will offer this free advice to Democrats: keep connecting Pence to Trump until November. This exercise makes his reelection more difficult, not less.
Rumors abound that internal polling numbers show John Gregg inching ahead of Pence here at home. This would be less notable if it weren’t for the significant investment the Republican Governors Association has spent attacking him on Pence’s behalf. It seems all these ads have accomplished is higher name ID for the challenger.
So as much as this coup might help Trump’s campaign, and Pence’s future brand, there is one thing Pence is risking by going on this little weekend trip. And that is job security.