We'd heard rumblings for months that Donald Trump was inclined toward holding off on this Big Reveal until the convention itself, as a means of building drama, hype and ratings -- all areas of Trump expertise -- ahead of the party's quadrennial showcase in Cleveland. But if a new CNN report is to be believed, the presumptive GOP nominee is preparing to roll out his vice presidential selection next week:
Donald Trump's much anticipated vice presidential pick is expected to be announced next week, a Trump adviser told CNN Tuesday. The presumptive Republican nominee will choose from a narrowing list of potential running mates that represent a wide range of styles...Trump's campaign has been quiet about who he'll pick -- and when he'll make an announcement. His former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is now a CNN political contributor, told CNN's Brianna Keilar Sunday on "State of the Union" that the key to Trump's selection will be his comfort level.
As interesting as the 'when' question may be, the hottest question, of course, is 'who'? The list of publicly-reported potential options ranges from reputed frontrunners Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie to Indiana Governor Mike Pence, to Senators Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst and Bob Corker. If fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is correct in his estimation that comfort level will reign supreme, the smart money might be on Gingrich. As we noted in May, the former House Speaker is reportedly exceptionally influential within Trump world:
Sources say that Trump has come to value the former speaker’s opinions. “They talk every day,” says a source familiar with the relationship, who claims that Gingrich e-mails Trump, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “countless times a day.”...Gingrich’s influence within Trump World is widespread. Inside Trump’s newly established campaign offices in Washington, D.C., his fingerprints are everywhere. “Right from the minute I joined we were told that Newt will have his hand in every major policy effort,” says one Trump aide. “So one of the things I do when I’m researching or writing anything, in addition to looking at what Trump has said about anything, I look at what Newt has said.”
Those quotes would suggest that Newt may have the inside track. Then again, it's also possible that the two have become less chummy after the Washington mainstay blasted the provocative billionaire's racially-tinged attacks on the Trump University fraud case judge. Just this past weekend, Gingrich (who shares Trump's unfavorability problem) also told an elite audience in Colorado that the man at the top of the ticket needs to "quit screwing up." Tough love in advance of what he hopes will be a more focused campaign, guided heavily by himself? Or an indication that he's not really interested in the job? We'll know soon enough, and may glean some sense of chemistry as Trump and Newt campaign together this evening in Ohio. As for the others, Christie has been almost slavishly loyal to Trump since his surprise February endorsement, a quality the real estate mogul values highly. With no apparent political future in New Jersey, Christie may see a Trump administration as his best chance to extend his career in public office. Some skeptics may ask whether a brash, outspoken all-New-York-area ticket would be alienating to voters, but the same questions arose about Trump's ability to win Republican primary votes in regions like Midwest and South, where he generally ended up performing well. Pence is an interesting option; he's a respected sitting governor and a full-spectrum conservative with loads of governing experience at both the state and federal levels. Though he backed Ted Cruz in Indiana, Pence went out of his way to praise Trump and his supporters in the process of endorsing the Texas Senator. The Hoosier State governor would bring likability, seriousness, policy chops and political savvy to the ticket. His vetting has been confirmed.
The three Senators present upsides and downsides; more the latter than the former, I suspect. Cotton and Ernst (who now says she's not being vetted, despite having a private meeting with Trump) are feisty, fresh faces with military experience, but they're both new to the DC scene. Neither has had time to become a creature of the Beltway, but the nominee-in-waiting has said on several occasions that he's looking for an experienced political hand to fill this particular slot. Bob Corker chairs the foreign relations committee and appeared jointly with Trump yesterday, but doesn't seem to add much strategic value, and has been critical of Trump and his policies in the recent past [UPDATE: Corker is out, but maybe keep an eye on Sen. Jeff Sessions]. One other possibility: Could Trump, ever the showman, be going through the motions and leaking names as a head fake, as he readies an out-of-the-box or surprise pick for maximum impact? On one hand, pulling off an elaborate stunt based on misdirection requires a level of coordination and sophistication that we've yet to see the bare-bones and often-shambolic Trump campaign demonstrate. On the other hand, unpredictable theatrics are in Trump's wheelhouse, and he's keenly aware that the VP announcement is one of the splashiest cards that remain in his deck. But if CNN's reporting is correct, and this is all going down next week (as opposed to in Cleveland), a traditional choice from the list of known names is a pretty safe bet -- especially if Trump wants to signal that he's capable of sober-minded competence on major decisions. I'll leave you with this bit of dramatic flair:
Convention speaker schedule to be released tomorrow. Let today be devoted to Crooked Hillary and the rigged system under which we live.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2016
Oh, and keep an eye on the next round of national polling, as Hillary Clinton is in the midst of a horrible week. Sure, she won't get indicted, but her entire tower of email lies just got razed to the ground by the FBI. She currently leads Trump by nearly five points in the RCP average. She'll have to take a hit after these news cycles, right? In the meantime, pick your preferred tracking poll. Morning Consult has him within one, while Reuters has her up 12.