With Donald Trump appearing to move toward Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate, analysts say the New York real estate developer will be picking a relatively safe conservative who should not harm Trump’s chances to win the presidency.
Although news organizations reported Trump had selected Pence for the Republican ticket, Trump tweeted an official announcement has been postponed after the terror attack in Nice, France.
Should Trump tap Pence, he will have turned toward a conservative Republican with extensive experience as governor of a Midwest state and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Pence, who opposes abortion rights, is likely to assuage the fears of social conservatives who have yet to declare their support for Trump in large enough numbers for him to win the presidency.
“If it is Governor Pence … he’s a guy without a scandal,” said John Weaver, who was the chief strategist for the presidential campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “He’s a decent man. It’s like the safest of safe choices, but it doesn’t change the electoral map at all.”
Jeff Sadosky, a Republican strategist who has worked for Ohio GOP officeholders, said Pence is “a well-known and respected conservative with executive experience who knows how to get things done in D.C.”
“But it will do nothing to ease the concerns many Republicans have about the top of the ticket, and quite frankly, I doubt there’s anyone on this planet he could have chosen as a vice presidential nominee who could have.”
Ironically, Pence has a voting record on economic issues that Weaver said is “diametrically opposite” of Trump, who has assailed free trade pacts as costing the United States millions of manufacturing jobs. As a member of the House, Pence was a staunch supporter of virtually every major international trade agreement.
Pence became the center of a raging controversy last year when he signed what was called a religious freedom law. Critics said it could have opened the door for companies to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
After many protests and the Indiana-based NCAA warning that such a law could cost the state the chance to host major sports events, Pence signed a modified version of the bill.
Yet even as Pence may help Trump with conservatives, the Indiana governor has a low profile nationally, and he is facing a difficult re-election this year against Democrat John Gregg. A Bellwether Research poll in May showed Pence with just a four-point lead.
“He’s a relatively fresh face on the national scene,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser. “His weakness is he’s not nearly as media skilled” as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who also was considered by Trump for vice president.
“It’s a question of whether you want a battle commander or a competent person who is ready to pull the levers of government,” Bennett said.
In addition, Pence does not offer Trump any real help with Hispanics who have been deeply offended by Trump’s vow to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and curb illegal immigration by building a wall along the Mexican border.
A Univision poll of 1,000 registered Latino voters released this week shows presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton winning 67 percent of the Latino vote compared to just 19 percent for Trump.
“I have great respect for the governor of Indiana,” said Rudy Fernandez, a White House adviser to former President George W. Bush. “He’s a solid conservative, but Hispanics are not that different from (most) voters — they will be making their decision for president based on who is at the top of the ticket.
“In Trump, you have one of the most divisive and offensive candidates to Hispanics in recent memory,” Fernandez said. “You are asking too much of Gov. Pence or anyone else to erase that.”
Yet with past vice presidential nominees such as Sarah Palin in 2008 becoming a liability on the ticket, GOP analysts say Pence may not help much, but he will not damage Trump.
“He’s a solid pick,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant in suburban Washington who has written about the growing impact of Hispanic and Latino voters.
“He is exactly the kind of pick who will do no harm, which is the first criteria of any vice presidential selection.”