In Donald Trump‘s world, he’s top dog and everyone else is a fire hydrant. So it’s no surprise that Trump apparently settled on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, only to delay the formal announcement. For his willingness to join forces with Trump, Pence, who had flown to New York for the announcement, gets to be publicly humiliated and to listen to Trump say on television that he hadn’t made a final decision.
Welcome to the Trump campaign.
From a political perspective, Pence is a safe choice, particularly compared to professional loose cannons former Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Pence has the kind of credentials that calm the Republican establishment: a former U.S. Representative with traditional party views on taxes, trade and the military.
He’s also an antigay buffoon. Pence has a long history of opposing LGBTQ equality. He was a vocal opponent of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tel, complaining that it would “mainstream homosexuality.” He voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes law because it advanced “a radical social agenda.” He supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and wanted to divert HIV funding to conversion therapy programs. Needless to say, in this year’s presidential race, he endorsed Ted Cruz.
The pinnacle of Pence’s homophobia was signing a religious liberty bill last year. The bill was designed to target the LGBT community and to please the antigay right. What followed was an uproar that clearly caught Pence, living in a homophobic bubble, off guard.
Pence’s inability to defend his actions will go down in the annals of political history as a model of incompetency. Again and again, Pence failed to articulate any reasonable explanation for his decision or to answer simple questions about his position on LGBT rights. (Let’s face it, what could he really say?) He bumbled his way through a huge backlash, blaming the media. Ultimately, he concocted a “fix” for the bill that had the dubious distinction of pleasing nobody.
His rating in the polls cratered and have never fully recovered. If anyone is happy to see Pence join Trump’s ticket, it’s the Indiana Republican party. Pence will have to withdraw from his re-election campaign for governor, and Republicans in the state will not be weeping at his departure.
Pence is so incredibly bland and ineffectual that he really is the perfect choice for someone with a huge ego. Trump need never worry about Pence overshadowing him. If anything, Trump will have to remind himself periodically that there is someone else on the ticket.
All political punditry to the contrary, vice presidential picks rarely have an impact on the overall race. The exception is in the case of truly awful choices, like Sarah Palin, who cost John McCain 2 million votes in 2008. Unless he proves to be spectacularly inept on the campaign trail, Pence will probably be nothing more than a footnote in the campaign.
And even if he does prove to be a really dreadful candidate, Pence will always come in second to the man at the top of the ticket.