For the record, I don’t think Donald Trump will be the next President. Although a CBS/NYT poll published Thursday shows a tight race and oracle Nate “Tarnished” Silver now gives Trump a 1 in 3 shot at winning, I would argue the racist deadbeat’s chances are more like 1 in 4 or less. For one thing, a slew of NBC/WSJ polls released Friday show Clinton with commanding leads in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. Of even more consequence is the “hot mess,” in the words of the New Republic’s Jeet Heer, that is the Trump campaign. Finally, Silver lost his air of infallibility by his insistence last year that Trump would not be the Republican candidate.
Nevertheless, Pence probably keeps Trump in a game that he could have easily lost before halftime had he plumped for Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich. As Silver wrote yesterday, Clinton could lose if “Americans come to view the race as one between two equally terrible choices, instead of Trump being uniquely unacceptable.” Pence, whose conservative Christian bona fides are nearly impeccable, will excite evangelicals skeptical of the worldly Trump with his divorces, New York values, and periodic lapses from homophobic orthodoxy.
By contrast, the scandal-plagued Catholic Christie, who embraced President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and the adulterous insider Gingrich would have most likely alienated heartland Christians. Another bonus for Trump is that Pence endorsed Ted Cruz in the primaries. Trump thus comes across as somewhat magnanimous and without the mean-spiritedness that characterizes nearly everything he does.
Pence will not hurt Trump’s standing with the famed white working class demographic. The Indiana governor told Sean Hannity he is open to renegotiating trade deals and supports Trump’s call to wall off Mexican border. Of equal import is that by choosing the rubicund, male, white, Midwestern, anti-choice, homophobe Pence, the reality show host demonstrated anew the über political correctness for which a significant slice of America embraces him.
Trump is nothing if not a hustler. The bland Pence whose red-face belies his colorlessness will not distract the crowd one whit from Trump’s three card Monte operation except to lend it a patina of respectability. Seemingly competent and straight-shooting, the Hoosier Pence may persuade some neighboring Ohioans and nearby Pennsylvanians to give Trump one last look-see. If this happens and enough Buckeyes and Keystone State voters start asking whether the flim-flam man really is any worse than his widely distrusted Democratic opponent, we could be in for a very long election night.