Veepstakes punditry is the most pathetic kind of punditry, because it so nakedly consists of pure guessing.
It’s one thing to look at polls and predict the behaviour of the entire electorate. It’s another, harder thing to predict a choice to be made by a single individual who may have disclosed that choice to nobody.
And then it’s another thing altogether to try to predict Donald Trump’s behaviour.
There’s a lot of noise emanating from around the Trump campaign about the VP choice, but my guess is there is very little signal within that noise. I think we have only two relevant data points about the VP selection process:
- What five people the campaign vetted; and
- What kind of people Trump likes to hire.
As for all of the past week’s veepstakes stories, remember that even on-the-record statements from the Trump campaign have often proved wrong. Trump did not release the list of RNC speakers when promised; had not donated to veterans’ groups when he said he had; said he had extinguished the loans to his campaign, then refused to issue documents demonstrating he had done so; was changing his Muslim ban policy and then wasn’t; etcetera, etcetera.
If on-the-record statements from Trump’s campaign should be viewed with scepticism, claims from anonymous sources “familiar with the deliberations” should be taken with even more grains of salt.
It’s possible these sources are guessing; it’s possible Trump has misled them; it’s possible they’re trying to plant news stories that influence the direction of the VP selection; it’s possible the campaign is planting a variety of stories to get attention; it’s possible Trump keeps changing his mind.
That is, maybe Chris Christie just got a “courtesy vet” despite being out of contention, or maybe somebody in Trump’s orbit who doesn’t want Christie to be the running mate is going around telling people it was just a courtesy vet to embarrass Christie. Who knows? Not me, not you, and probably not the guy telling CNN the final two are Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich with an outside chance for Christie, either.
All that said, since everybody else is guessing, I feel like I deserve to get in on the fun, too. Here’s my guess: I think it’s going to be Christie.
I arrive at this conclusion by discarding all of the chatter except the list of people who are known to have gone through the vetting process — while Trump is a wild card, I do not believe he will select someone whom his campaign has not researched at all. That leaves five possible candidates: Gingrich, Christie, Pence, Sen. Jeff Sessions, and former Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn.
Of these five, Christie is the most consistently obsequious. And I believe Trump loves a yes-man so dearly that this will be his most important consideration in choosing a running mate.
Being a total yes-man isn’t just a character trait Trump happens to like. It is also an unusually important qualification to serve on a ticket with him, since the job will involve offering daily defences of the indefensible.
Pence is likely to be bad at this, having the dual drawbacks of being fairly ideologically principled and not especially bright. Gingrich has shown a willingness to stick up for Trump’s outrageous statements, but his indiscipline and love of the sound of his own voice is likely to lead him astray from time to time.
Christie, meanwhile, is “comfortable at defending anything,” as National Review’s Rich Lowry notes. He’s the perfect, reliable, shameless yes-man.
And that’s why I think Trump will put him on the ticket.
This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.
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