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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Speculation runs wild over Mike Pence as Trump’s VP

All eyes in the 2016 presidential horse race turn to Cleveland today as Republican National Committee members assemble there ahead of next week’s Republican convention.

But even with critical meetings taking place in the lead-up to the official televised hoopla which starts next Monday, presumed nominee Donald Trump has found a way to keep the focus on him – or at least who he Mike Pencemight choose for his running mate.

Al Weaver of the Washington Examiner writes one candidate in particular has been getting quite a bit of attention, “Recently, focus has centered on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who campaigned with Trump on Wednesday night in Cincinnati, where he gave a short and sweet, but well-received introduction for the real estate tycoon. When the issue of a running mate came up during Trump's speech, supporters took to chanting ‘Newt! Newt! Newt!’ Trump replied Gingrich will indeed have a role in his administration.”

After discussing the various attributes of Gingrich, Chris Christie and Mike Pence, Weaver says Trump being Trump might just tab someone no one’s even thought of before.

“Given the unconventional nature of Trump's campaign, it wouldn't shock many if he goes outside the box and away from the expected candidates, perhaps someone far removed.”

Last week I predicted Iowa senator Joni Ernst would be Trump’s choice…before she all but took herself out of the running the same day I made the guess. I still wouldn’t be at all surprised if Trump talked her into it, but it isn’t looking probable at this point.

I also don’t think Trump will go with a “shocker” type nominee for a few reasons. First and foremost, this isn’t a game show where revealing who’s “hidden behind door number one” will bring with it a lot of value. Trump needs a VP with a national profile – or the capability of building one – to lend credibility to his campaign.

The Donald knows he’s already viewed as somewhat of a circus sideshow in establishment circles, so in order to eventually be taken seriously, he can’t pull out a candidate like Admiral James Stockdale (Ross Perot’s running mate) and expect to bring people around.

Second, Trump himself has said many times he wants someone with insider knowledge and experience to help him push his agenda on Capitol Hill. A surprise nominee from outside of Washington would effectively work against these wishes and likely only lead to frustration for Trump should he win the election.

Lastly, Trump will take Richard Viguerie’s and other conservative movement leaders’ advice and choose someone who will help bring skeptical conservatives over to his side, a coalition builder, if you will. If Trump didn’t realize it before, he’s likely to have figured it out lately that conservatives would be his greatest allies in trying to change Washington.

Choosing an establishmentarian like Chris Christie or John Kasich – or a “shock” nominee -- would not accomplish that goal in the slightest and arguably would make things worse.

Trump is smart businessman who knows when to take risks and when to play it safe. This is one case where playing it safe is really the best option.

Will it be Gingrich? Perhaps. Or, as Jonathan Easley of The Hill reports, Mike Pence is looking particularly strong. “Buzz is building on Capitol Hill for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be Donald Trump’s running mate…

“[Former colleagues] gushed about how [Pence] could help unite establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives behind Trump, who has otherwise struggled to bring together a fractured party.”

(Note: Here’s a story from the Washington Times that says there’s a 95 percent chance it will be Mike Pence.)

We’ll know for sure, probably by the end of the week…if not sooner. Like the Ghost of Christmas yet to come (in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), Trump will reveal his decision in his own good time.

Rare praise for Trump’s reaction to the Dallas shootings from key #NeverTrumper

There’s little doubt the communications operations of both campaigns were in overdrive on Friday morning as details trickled in about the horrible shootings of a dozen police officers in Dallas.

While not all responses to events should be political, the reactions of the candidates would be treated as such by a news media hungry to fill airtime on cable shows and editorial pages.

Donald Trump’s detractors were probably anxiously waiting for a statement they could spin as outlandish and excessive. When they didn’t get it, some even threw him faint praise.

#NeverTrumper Caleb Howe of RedState wrote of Trump’s measured reaction to Dallas, “He stopped talking. He went away. He shut up. He gave us time off. We're not looking at him or listening to him. It's the best thing he could possibly do for America…

“And of course, it doesn't bode well for someone who wants to be President that the best thing he can do in a situation that requires leadership is to zip it. But that's a whole other thing. For now, nice job, Donald. Two moves right on the mark, one that was at least not blazingly awful, and one that is silently the best thing you've ever done. Well done, sir.”

Howe’s aren’t exactly the kind of supportive words we’re likely to see in a future Trump campaign ad, but it’s a start for the #NeverTrump folks to at least give The Donald a little credit for his restraint.

As one of the main writers at RedState, Howe has consistently been one of Trump’s biggest and most vocal critics and even wrote a lengthy post recently about how he’s going to vote for Gary Johnson, no matter what. I’m not sure his post-Dallas Trump blog means Howe’s considering changing his mind, but in the end, I guess it doesn’t matter too much.

It’s a good sign that at least #NeverTrump is willing to listen to Trump’s point-of-view and offer him kudos when he handles circumstances according to their liking. In these difficult times when either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to be responding on behalf of the nation to these types of situations on a regular basis starting next January, the country needs some semblance of unity.

I’m guessing #NeverTrump will be ramping up the criticism again starting today. Then we’ll have to go back to trying to convince them to listen to reason.

For now, well done, Mr. Howe.

#NeverTrump’s grasp of Trump conspiracy theories is just a tad over-the-top

With the Republican National Convention convening one week from today and certain elements of the Republican Party having already arrived onsite to begin doing preparatory work, some #NeverTrump warriors are waging their last desperate battles in hopes of somehow tripping up The Donald before he arrives in Cleveland.

One of them is even embracing conspiracy theories.

Last week, Erick Erickson wrote in The Resurgent, “I am beginning to believe Trump is a Clinton operation designed to get Hillary elected. Trump is, after all, the only Republican who ran who was a Clinton donor. He is also the only Republican running who called Bill Clinton to discuss running before he even got into the race…

“He relishes attacking the GOP. Just today he went into a closed door meeting with Republican senators and attacked several of them for not kissing his ring. But he doesn’t like to attack Clinton. He’d rather do something else.”

Prior to making the dramatic admission that he’s onboard with the conspiracy theorists, Erickson said he’s worked for years to debunk other similar crazy assertions from reactionaries, such as Hillary Clinton being responsible for the murder of Vince Foster and Obama being a secret Muslim plant.

But I guess claiming Trump is a secret Hillary and Bill shill isn’t too outlandish for the #NeverTrump movement. I don’t know whether to laugh or just feel pity for them.

I will say, Erickson’s allegation isn’t the first time we’ve lived through speculation on whether Trump was secretly working for Hillary. I believe Rand Paul even brought up the possibility during the first GOP presidential debate, though I don’t believe Paul actually accused Trump of trying to benefit Hillary specifically. Paul’s claim was more along the lines of, “by attacking Republicans, you (Trump) are effectively working to get a Democrat elected president”…something like that.

I myself questioned Trump’s loyalty to the GOP in the early stages of the campaign when he seemed a lot more interested in knocking his fellow opponents than bashing the almost certain Democrat nominee. The subject of Trump’s friendship with the Clintons surfaced on several occasions and I didn’t think he accounted for it very well.

It’s well known Bill and Hillary attended Trump’s wedding to wife Melania and the pictures from that day depict a group of friends happy and laughing. Trump hasn’t denied being chummy with the Clintons in the past but I’m guessing the relationship (if there still is one) is considerably strained now.

Trump’s anti-Hillary speech a couple weeks ago tore apart the entire Clinton scheme and revealed deeply personal accusations of corruption and fraud that “friends” just don’t tend to make against each other.

There’s more to it than just friends gone bad, too. To believe such a conspiracy theory – that Trump is purposely sabotaging the Republican side of the election – is to buy into the notion Trump doesn’t care about this country or its people. Forget the fact he’s dumped tens of millions of his own money into running his campaign (loan forgiveness is a topic for another day), Trump would have had to have invested over a year’s worth of his time flying around the U.S. and blatantly lying to millions of people about his true intentions.

If Trump were really trying to get Hillary elected, he’s sure got a lot of people fired up over his own candidacy and anti-politically correct message. From the beginning, Trump supporters have been some of the most loyal and vocal participants in the presidential race on either side. The feeling of betrayal these people would experience if Trump isn’t on the level would be breathtaking. Trump would be ruined.

In reality, Trump gives voice to those millions of people who want the law to be enforced, our borders secured, our traditions safeguarded and our jobs protected from the moneyed interests intent on enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else.

It’s no secret why Trump has placed these themes at the center of his campaign, and to question whether he truly believes all of what he says is to take a Grand Canyon-sized leap of faith into the mental ward.

As I’ve argued on numerous occasions, Donald Trump is first and foremost concerned about his family legacy. Even if Trump himself wanted to throw the election to the Clintons, he wouldn’t risk his children’s good name to become synonymous with legendary turncoats such as Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold.

At the same time, it seems obvious from Trump’s mannerisms and words that he’s got a fair amount of contempt for many establishment Republicans, but that’s to be expected from a man who’s lived his entire life by pitting opponents and groups against each other. As a negotiator, Trump relies on keeping people off balance.

Trump is not trying to throw the election to Hillary, however. Whether he’s willing to make some slight alterations to the way he does things in order to run a more effective campaign is another question. But Trump has run his own unorthodox campaign according to the way he thinks things should be done. And no one can dispute, thus far, it’s worked brilliantly.

Trump no doubt thinks he deserves a little latitude…and I think we should give it to him.

Donald Trump could bridge the racial divide if given a fair chance

Finally today, RedState’s Caleb Howe (cited above) wasn’t the only one impressed with Donald Trump’s post-Dallas compassion.

Nick Gass of Politico reports, “Donald Trump has tried to campaign as someone who can bridge racial divides, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said Sunday.

“’I think he's trying to campaign as a racial healer,” Fallin said on CNN's ‘State of the Union.’ ‘I think that has been part of his message, if you watch what he said this week, you know he talked about how devastating it was for Dallas, how we need to respect our law enforcement, how we need to pray for those who are killed and those who are injured. I think that is his intent; I trust him with his words, and I think we all need to move towards being compassionate, loving, healing, but yet also respecting our law enforcement.’”

Of course the media must be doubling over hysterically laughing at the notion Donald Trump, or any Republican, could possibly heal the vast racial divide that now exists in America thanks to Obama, Hillary, black political leaders, Rodney King, O.J. Simpson and more recently the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

In their minds, only liberals are capable of even talking about the subject. Conservatives and Donald Trump just “seed the clouds”, right?

In reality, if Trump is able to present his economic message to minority communities, he could and should make some headway by establishing a dialogue on the issues that matter most to them, namely jobs and education (school choice) in addition to safety.

Obama has worked for years to foster divisions. Trump could work for unity…if given the opportunity.

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