WASHINGTON – I heard from a member of the Trump inner circle Wednesday morning after they had met with Mike Pence.
“I liked him a lot,” this person said. “Seems like a good guy.”
When I brought up the fact that the governor of Indiana was unpopular in his own state, the inner-circler was already armed with a response.
“The state is doing great,” they said. “A great example for the country.”
That pretty much signaled the final VP decision – though who knows what Donald Trump will do as they load him into the starting gate tonight.
If and when Trump announces Pence at his running mate, he will be making a statement about more than the Republican ticket. He will blow up the wishful thinking of pundits and others who don’t think he really wants the job or that he is not willing to think inside the box to get it.
It has been clear for days that the members of the Trump inner circle – led by Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, and the four Trump kids (Ivanka Trump, Don Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner) – all favored Pence as a symbol of normal political life.
With Trump’s numbers rising, and for the time being at least tied with Hillary Clinton in early popular polls (the latest being the CBS/New York Times poll), the inner-circler argued that one bomb-thrower – Trump himself – was enough for the ticket.
But unlike the other two finalists (Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie), Pence doesn’t have a naturally confrontational personality and, as a former House member as well as governor, he looks, walks and talks like the kind of insider pol Trump ran against.
Like other signals Trump has given in recent weeks – and that have been ignored by many who wished he would go away – the irresponsible social outlaw is looking for ways to at least act within the “normal,” if also often corrupt, bounds of “politics.”
The first indicator was bringing on Manafort ― with the perfect resume of convention experience and advising autocratic candidates ― as chairman. The second was the dumping of hit-man campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
The third was the enlisting of a professional operation to whip the Cleveland convention.
The fourth was the rising influence of the Trump kids, who have wider and more bipartisan contacts and a feel for media and political types that Trump despises. They are a leavening influence, politically and in terms of tone.
The Pence pick would be the next.
Another indicator will be if Trump himself actually takes seriously the need to study, and to prepare for what certainly will be the most consequential series of presidential debates since TV began.
It remains true, as The Huffington Post has reported, that the Trump campaign is skeletal on the ground in the states he needs to win — or everywhere, for that matter.
But he has been underestimated every step along the way, and defied every expectation.
The shocking truth is that he really wants the job and now thinks he can win it, if he doesn’t make any colossal mistakes in an attempt to get there.