Donald Trump formally introduced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate Saturday with a speech in New York City that was a testament to Trump’s greatest strength: talking about himself.
The two shared the stage for the first time as a joint ticket, as the presumptive Republican nominee weaved in and out of his usual self-aggrandizing campaign stump speech — plus a bizarrely long and confusing anecdote about evangelical voters and a 1954 tax code that prevents tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates — to tout Pence’s record in Indiana.
Despite a lot of waffling from the Trump campaign in the lead-up to the Pence announcement, Trump said Pence was his "first choice from the start" Saturday, calling the two of them the "law and order candidates" who will "make America safe again."
Trump also took the opportunity to lambast Hillary Clinton’s record in the Middle East, chastise her for the email scandals, loosely comment on the "anguish" in Turkey, say how he was going to win big with veterans, brag about how about how he "won" the Old Post Office building in Washington, DC, for his new hotel, and champion his clairvoyance on foreign policy issues.
"I see the ads on foreign policy, [Clinton] talking about Donald Trump doesn’t have foreign policy experience. Of course not; I have been a very, very successful business person," Trump said. "But if you look at my calls, I said don’t go into Iraq, but nobody cared because I was a businessman, I was a civilian. I said in Scotland and in the UK, that was going to happen, I was the one that predicted [Brexit], and everyone said, 'He’s wrong.'"
After all this, he went back to Pence to compliment him on balancing Indiana’s budget while cutting taxes.
"When I see what happened in Indiana, that to me was probably the single most important part," Trump said. "The turnaround and the strength of Indiana has been incredible, and I learned that when I campaigned there. And I learned that when I won that state in a landslide, and I learned that when Gov. Pence under tremendous pressure endorsed someone else, but it was really an endorsement for me."
For how Trumpy Trump’s introduction was, Pence is a safe pick
It’s not just Pence’s initial endorsement of Ted Cruz — the Indiana governor has notably disagreed with Trump a number of times in the past. The two seem to differ on trade policy (Pence has supported Trans-Pacific Partnership), the Iraq War (Pence voted for it), Planned Parenthood (Pence started the GOP’s campaign to defund the organization), and Pence was open about criticizing Trump’s more divisive comments on Muslim Americans and Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
But despite their differences, Pence is a notably safe pick for Trump who will likely be a welcomed choice by the Republican establishment.
This un-Trumpy vice presidential pick seems to signal his willingness embrace conventional Republicanism, as Ezra Klein argues:
A Pence pick is Trump deciding — or perhaps admitting — that it’s more important to be a Republican than to be, well, himself. Trump once had ambitions of upending the electoral map. He’s bragged that he would win New York and California, and he’s tried to make a pitch to disaffected Bernie Sanders voters. He could have chosen a vice president aligned with that strategy — an outsider, a businessman, a Californian, or at least a Republican who echoed Trump’s distaste for the GOP establishment. He could have doubled down on being different.
Instead, he looks to be choosing an emissary to the Republican Party, a VP who suggests that Trump’s deviations are part of a sales pitch, not core to his ideology or nonnegotiable in his approach to governing. In this, the highest-profile personnel decision Trump will make, he’s signaled either a lack of faith or a lack of commitment to Trumpism, and a desire to reconcile with Republicanism.
Although his choice of running mate suggests a more conventional direction for his campaign, it's clear from this speech that Trump himself hasn't changed his style.