The right ticket: The calculus of selecting Trump's running mate

We're about one day away from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' MORE announcing his chosen running mate.  On Friday morning, he'll make the largest announcement since the commencement of his campaign just over a year ago, and it's a decision that involves far more in the way of calculation than which name looks best in the number two slot atop an campaign poster.

In the wake of a mass exodus of potential vice president picks publicly fleeing from the notion of joining Trump's ticket, media outlets have been abuzz with rampant speculation regarding who is likely to fill the void as the potential Republican pick for vice president.  Commonly overheard names include Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

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The question becomes, and bearing in mind that Trump has proven to be politically unpredictable, which one of the aforementioned last men standing should be added to the ticket.  More specifically, if victory in November is the goal, Trump has to run the smart play. 

To arrive at such a decision, even when applied to a candidate that has defied virtually every traditional convention in modern politics, it's wise to adhere to the basic tenets of logic and sound political strategy when determining a move geared expressly for a general election.  So, it's critical to evaluate the presidential nominee's weaknesses so that the VP pick can even out the ticket and optimize its chances for achieving success at American ballot boxes.

To that end, Donald Trump is far from a flawless candidate, and while he surprised many with his stunning primary victory, battling amongst other Republican contenders in a primary is a massively different animal than engaging in open political warfare against a unified national party.  A party that will use a sophisticated and extensive campaign apparatus fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars, and geared solely to capitalize on its adversary's weaknesses.

For Trump, his outsider status and off-the-cuff style won't be enough to sway the scores of skeptical undecided and moderate voters who are necessary to secure victory.  Trump is well-documented to be impulsive, reckless, and void of any comprehensive policy prescriptions.  One can survive a primary, given the right political climate, by being hyper-aggressive, but a general election campaign requires a more careful and diplomatic approach.  The votes being vied for are discerning votes which requires a thoughtful marketing technique, one not based in poorly-executed lambasting or bludgeoning, but in persuasion.  The undecided and moderate voters that will tip the election are going to want a statesman, not an attack dog.  As such, the VP has to be able to assist Trump in rounding that all-important corner, to help him repackage his uniqueness in a technically sound and palatable way.

With all of that in mind, it's difficult to see how three of the four previously mentioned candidates would aid Trump in capturing the White House.  The notion that Pence can help deliver the middle portion of the country is an unusual one.  His disastrous Religious Freedom Restoration Act and uncompromising stance on women's reproductive rights is certain to scare off undecided and moderate voters, and with an approval rating of a mere 40 percent, he's unlikely to be able to deliver his home state to Trump, much less a sizable portion of the region.  Next up is Christie, who fails the regional diversity test, hailing from the East Coast.  Still tainted from "Bridgegate" and carrying an approval rating of 29 percent, he's unlikely to do any favors for the Trump campaign if added to the ticket.  Moreover, his aggressive and vocal nature is stylistically redundant on a Trump ticket.  Lt. General Flynn is also unlikely to pay dividends.  He's been known to be reckless, and possesses a significant weakness in handling the media.  Add to the mix that he identifies as a Democrat, and Flynn isn't a logical choice either.

That leaves Newt Gingrich as the most sensible pick to serve as Trump's running mate.  To be certain, Gingrich comes with drawbacks too, however, his upside and possible contribution to the campaign is greater than his competitors.  As a former Speaker of the House still connected to the happenings within the confines of the Capitol, he would be an invaluable conduit between Trump and the Republicans in Washington with whom he has a strained relationship.  Gingrich also possesses viable relationships with traditional GOP mega-donors such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, the likes of whose financial infrastructure will be necessary to fund a competitive campaign.  Most importantly of all, Gingrich is a calculated and cunning veteran politician.  While some may see that as a liability, it provides the counterweight necessary to negate some of Trump's weaknesses.  Gingrich can expertly handle the media, he can translate and direct Trump's policy positions into digestible and concise statements, all while keeping the pressure on Clinton.  In short, adding Gingrich provides stability to the ticket that desperately needs it.


Heitz has written articles for several publications. He obtained his BA in History from the University of St. Thomas and an MA in War in the Modern World from King's College London.