Trump’s tactical mistake: Mike Pence as VP
© Greg Nash

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter was right. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE just made his first big mistake: he ignored his gut, bowed to misguided advice, and choose a running mate who is not just misaligned with his message, but also adds no real tactical value to the GOP ticket.

Pundits hypothesize that with Gov. Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence threatens to deploy military if Pennsylvania governor doesn't quell looting Pence on Floyd: 'No tolerance for racism' in US Pence chief of staff owns stock affected by boss's coronavirus work: report MORE as the GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Trump will be able to reassure a socially conservative base and repair bridges that Trump torched during the primary. This may be true, but coddling the egos and quelling the concerns of a select group of senators and representatives (some of whom are out of touch with voters) will not translate into general election votes.

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And, given a choice between Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden: Probably '10 to 15 percent' of Americans 'are just not very good people' Mattis's Trump broadside underscores military tensions Mark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president MORE and Donald Trump, no person who is a true social conservative would choose Clinton over Trump. If Trump is already the only choice for social conservatives, what strategic value is gained by picking a VP who panders to them? None. Not to mention that a governor who is zealously pro-life and widely considered anti-LGTBQ does not mesh with Trump’s message of being the best candidate for women and the gay community.

In contrast to a Pence pick that simply maintains political buoyancy, a Chris Christie pick would have propelled the Trump campaign forward in its mission to win over a broader set of voters.

Gov. Christie has a forceful personality, but it is one that is refreshingly candid and measured when it needs to be. When Christie talks, people listen because like Trump he is a skilled communicator with a fiery spirit. Though commentators may argue that Pence adds balance to a Trump ticket, Christie would have offered Trump a value proposition that Pence cannot: a pragmatic Washington outsider with governing experience who has been fiercely loyal to Trump even at cost to his own reputation.

Christie’s powerful persona is adept at dismantling Clinton’s career and character and, most importantly, he is not a social conservative crusader who alienates moderates and independents. He is a man who balances conservative conviction and common sense progression. Christie can withstand the media mortar fire as he did with Bridgegate (while Pence crumbled under pressure and botched the handling of Indiana’s religious freedom bill). And with Trump positioning himself as the “law-and-order candidate,” partnering with a tough former prosecutor would have most certainly reinforced that message.

Many reported that Trump in his gut and his heart was leaning toward Governor Christie, but that "Everybody around him in the campaign apparatus had been making these moves to make it so Mike Pence would be his running mate,” according to Dana Bash, CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent.

Will Gov. Pence as the VP nominee hurt Trump? Probably not. Yet the possible value gained from Pence as his running mate is bound to be net zero. Strategically, Trump wasted the opportunity to broaden his appeal. Pence won’t help win over independents and moderates who are Hillary-skeptics, but Chris Christie could have.


Rohan Kher is an undergraduate strategy student at the University of Michigan Steven M. Ross School of Business. He can be reached at kher@umich.edu.