Donald Trump has just announced that he’s picking Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, a choice that adds an extra jolt of social conservatism and potentially helps the ticket raise more money by winning over reluctant Republican financial backers.


  • Trump picks social conservative to reclaim Republican base

  • Pence supported by the Koch Brothers, who have said that didn’t like Trump

  • Pence was involved in GOP leadership: he knows how to work Congress


 

Trump went back on a statement following the attack in Nice, France to delay his VP pick – originally scheduled for Friday – until the weekend. But inconsistency should surprise no one at this point.

Pence emerged as the last one standing in a list that reportedly included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, two men who supported Trump early on.

The main things to know about him are (all of which we’ll get into shortly):

  • He’s super socially conservative, particularly on abortion and gay rights
  • He’s a favorite of the wealthy industrialist Koch brothers
  • He originally backed Cruz, but he still lavished some praise on Trump while doing it
  • He has major disagreements with Trump, particularly trade and militarism, and he’s called Trump out on some of his more outlandish ideas, like Trump’s idea to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.

There are certainly places in the conservative world that are thrilled about the move, but plenty aren’t.

But the biggest reason for the pick may be that it helps „normalize“ him:

..which basically means making him less frightening to mainstream conservatives and potentially earning the trust and cash of the GOP’s stable of billionaires who pour money into its elections – though the chances of that may be unlikely, at least when it comes to the Koch brothers.

But also, it should be noted that Trump always said he was looking for someone who actually understands D.C., and Pence does fit the bill. While serving in Congress for about a decade before becoming governor, he rose relatively quickly to a top-ranking leadership job.

A bit more about his background:

  • He’s been in Indiana pretty much his whole life, aside from his sojourns to D.C. as congressman for about a decade leading up to his election to governor in 2012
  • Before his life in politics, though, he worked as an attorney, the president of a conservative think tank, and finally a syndicated radio host in the 1990s.
  • He failed in earlier runs for Congress in 1988 and 1990
  • He eventually won a seat in Congress in 2000 and became Republican Conference Chairman – the third ranking leadership role – in 2009
  • Since becoming governor he has seen major national controversy over gay rights and an effort to finance a state-run news agency
  • His popularity has tanked, and the re-election he would have faced was expected to be really tough

Then again, perhaps the very real potential of losing that reelection helped him leap into Trump’s tiny-fingered embrace.

Pence backed Cruz originally but still wanted to “commend“ Trump, whom he said “has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans.“

Cruz was a lot closer to Pence in terms of social values. Pence has called himself “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.“

Pence is hardcore anti-abortion, while Trump merely plays at it and then says things so extreme that even guys like Pence actually call him out, as he did when Trump said expectant mothers who get abortions should be “punished.“

He’s presided over new abortion restrictions that are so worrisome a federal judge blocked them from taking effect.

On gay rights he’s opposed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, supported conversion therapy, and opposed even civil unions.

But it’s his state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act that grabbed the most attention. It essentially allowed private business to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds, and it ignited a national shitstorm that led to him pushing to weaken the act, which managed to piss off conservatives – who thought it was weak – and liberals – who thought it was still horrible.

The irony of running with a guy who has called for a wholesale ban of another religion should be lost on no one.

Another major difference between Trump and Pence: the latter voted for the Iraq War enthusiastically and hailed the toppling of the “nightmare“ that was Saddam Hussein, whom Trump recently praised for his ability to at least kill terrorists.

Trump plays the isolationist who says he was always against the Iraq War, but interviews from that time have surfaced – surprise – and contradicted him.

Pence, in earning praise from people like the Koch brothers, is also a traditional neo-liberal who has supported free-trade deals – Trump’s signature grievance.

He has also criticized Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

But to be fair, pretty much every sitting politician with a pulse disavowed that one on sheer reflex, and he has still refused to accept Syrian refugees, a stance Jesus, a refugee himself, would no doubt have encouraged.

In another widely mimicked move, he also criticized Trump’s questioning the competence of a Mexican-American judge presiding over his “university“ fraud case.

Of course more cynical observers immediately saw in Trump’s pick the potential to open the money spigots that have run dry for him and his emotionally exhausting politics.

Maybe some of the GOP’s financial heavy hitters will start opening their wallets, but the Koch brothers are already telling reporters that the Pence pick does nothing to change their strategy, which entirely aimed at saving the Senate for Republicans in the event a Trump candidacy turns out to be as bad as it has looked so far.

Image: Gage Skidmore