The Republican Party has for long prided itself on being the champion of US military dominance overseas. The overwhelming, and almost certainly extortionate, military budget
that Congress allocates to the military every year is considered sacred by many GOP war hawks, and any reservations expressed thereof, sacrilegious. It is no surprise, therefore, that Donald Trump has floated the idea of appointing a Vice Presidential candidate in uniform, to appease a section within the Republican voter-base that may have qualms about his seemingly defensive realism
. The past few days have made it clear, however, that the likely nominee is going to be a more traditional politician than Trump himself, in an effort either to restore stability to his campaign that has recently found itself in disarray, or to help endear him to Republicans in Washington.
< style="color: #163449;">Read: The Republican revolt over Trump | Republicans may save America from Trump, but can they save themselves?
The three candidates that seem most likely, at the moment, to get the nod from Trump are Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, and Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Each of them represents success and experience within the Republican Party — having secured substantial leadership positions — however, with each, Trump will be looking to shape distinct narratives.
Chris Christie is undoubtedly the contender with the most similar personality to Trump’s. Through the race, he had pitched himself as an answer to the very frustration that led to Trump’s rise: An aversion to the closed-door nature of Washington. Whereas his campaign for the Presidency ended on a high note, with him delivering a virtual knockout punch to Marco Rubio in his last debate
, his poll numbers have not been favourable
ever since he appeared alongside The Donald. The most likely reason for this is that his supporters find it hard to reconcile his outright disagreements with Trump’s most contentious policy stances
— on banning Muslims, building a wall, and limiting social security — with his eventual endorsement. Thus, with Christie, Trump would have to weigh the benefits of furnishing his anti-Washington narrative, against the cost of forging a seemingly dissonant alliance. The prospect of Christie having to defend his flip-flopping on Trump’s most notable policies during the debates should, and foreseeably will, deter him from being picked.
Figure 1 highlights the unpopularity of Chris Christie’s union with Donald Trump, within his own state of New Jersey. The same poll also found that Christie’s approval ratings in the state stand at a dismal 26% since his endorsement for Trump. Source: < style="color: #0069a6;">The Washington Post
Mike Pence, who has made public appearances with Trump in his home state of Indiana recently, is a conservative stalwart with similar stances
to Trump’s on gay marriage, immigration, foreign policy, and tax cuts for the rich. What Trump will be noteworthy of, though, is his major disagreements with Pence on an issue that he has made the centerpiece of his campaign: Protectionism. Pence had essentially supported
all major trade agreements upon which his vote was sought during his time in Congress, which is unlikely to win him approval from Trump’s angry blue-collar base. While the Trump campaign is not unused to seeming hypocritical — given how disparate his speeches have been from his campaign’s official stances on campaign finance and healthcare
— his recent raking up of trade policy as a means to win over Sanders supporters indicates that he may not want to compromise on the one issue for which he calls Sanders a “sellout”.
< style="color: #163449;">Read: Does America have enough angry white voters to fuel a #Trump presidency?
Newt Gingrich — former Speaker of the House of Representatives and candidate for President in 2012 — fulfills most major criteria to be Trump’s VP pick, and seems the most politically prudent choice. He has had strong ties with the Party
, which Trump would see has a possibly avenue for him to use in this election, and to maintain relations with the House and Senate Republicans eventually. Although he does not exactly align with Trump on all major issues such as immigration, social security and NAFTA, his recent comments have indicated that he is willing to compromise
in order to get on the ticket. Perhaps Gingrich’s greatest asset might be his somewhat elusive presence in the recent past: Whereas Christie had faced the limelight during his own campaign, Pence is a Governor of a major Republican state. Gingrich, on the contrary, would bring a sense of calm to the campaign, for even his subtle disagreements with Trump have not received major public attention.
It is no surprise that Fox News has suspended
its ties with Newt Gingrich, indicating his possible elevation to the Trump ticket. While it is quite clear that Trump has ushered in a brand of conservatism that may not perfectly align with anyone else’s in the Party, he would benefit most from a candidate that lets him have the limelight, and allows him a constructive partnership with the Republican establishment. Newt Gingrich would do just that.
The author is Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.
Read his earlier post on Atlantic Files: #USElections2016: Why VP Warren would be a mistake
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