Donald Trump selecting Newt Gingrich as his running mate would be insane. Think of what few norms are still observed in national politics following the rise of Trump. There’s the one about how at least one member of a presidential ticket should be a nonironic candidate. Then there’s the norm that Newt Gingrich, having served as second in line of succession to the presidency, should never be allowed to rise to first. Third … well, there is no third remaining observed political norm. Trump, having taken out all others, now has the ability to nix the two holdouts with a single decision left entirely to him.
Which is why there’s such a great chance of it happening! It just makes too much sense, in its blanket obliteration of what was previously considered “sense.” Selecting a figure such as Gingrich, who beyond all the Trumpian goofiness also has the Trumpian bulldozing of a longstanding post-war political paradigm on his resume, has its own simple and perfect logic. This really may happen, and it would be amazing. God help us all.
Gingrich, in his trademark way of exuding unsubtlety in the execution of what he believes to be a stealth operation, is angling for the vice presidency even more aggressively than Trump is angling for the presidency. When Gingrich responded to a question about the inexperience of Trump’s foreign policy advisers by instructing Slate’s Isaac Chotiner to read both The Art of the Deal and The Art of the Comeback, such a shameless non sequitur could only be read as that day’s canned talking point in his campaign for the vice presidency. Gingrich was among the earliest bold-name political figures to liaise between Trump and official Republican Washington. Like Chris Christie, Gingrich may have realized that taking the plunge early with the party’s incoming standard-bearer was the best way to position himself for a sweet gig down the road—and perhaps persuade Trump to help retire lingering campaign debt.
Trump basks in what normals might consider uncomfortable levels of flattery, and so, by several accounts—including Trump’s own mouth—Gingrich has successfully implanted himself on his new master’s veep shortlist. Though Gingrich has said Trump would need “psychiatric help” if the presumptive nominee were to select him as his running mate, he definitely will not rule himself out. The former speaker of the House is now a ubiquitous force in the Trump effort, selling him in the media and advising him on policy and politics. As National Review reports:
Gingrich’s influence within Trump World is widespread. Inside Trump’s newly established campaign offices in Washington, D.C., his fingerprints are everywhere. “Right from the minute I joined we were told that Newt will have his hand in every major policy effort,” says one Trump aide. “So one of the things I do when I’m researching or writing anything, in addition to looking at what Trump has said about anything, I look at what Newt has said.”
So why wouldn’t Trump just formalize the relationship?
It requires getting over a mental hurdle: Gingrich is the antithesis of what just about every even casual observer of politics would recommend. One of Trump’s various critical weaknesses entering the general election is the fear that—just bear with me a second—he might be a crazy person who’s visibly too unstable to serve as president. Selecting a sturdy hand as his second-in-command—an adult who actually behaves like an adult and also knows things, like Sen. Bob Corker—should be his first priority. Right?
But Corker’s not splashy enough, and Trump judges the value of his actions almost entirely on splash factor. Hoo-boy, would Gingrich be splashy. Think of both the short-term splash—oh my God, he literally picked Newt Gingrich to be his running mate—and the selection’s long tail. Reporters would find little time to cover much else (like, say, the Clinton campaign) between reports of what nonsense both Trump and Gingrich are spouting on a minute-by-minute basis. Trump, unsatisfied with his ability to consume a modest 90 percent of media oxygen over the past year, may find it impossible not to select Gingrich if this assures his campaign the full 100 percent.
Gingrich would check certain conventional boxes, too. Even if his demeanor is unsuited for executive power, he is a bright guy who’s familiar with both public policy and the how Washington works. He’s experienced, even if in acquiring that experience he came to turn off many of his colleagues (and lose his job) because of his erratic leadership style and, eventually, ethical violations.
But the most underweighted concern from outside handicappers when trying to calculate the effectiveness of a ticket is the unquantifiable: the relationship between the candidate and his vice presidential nomination and how comfortable they are working together. Mitt Romney in 2012 selected Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate despite Ryan’s policy baggage because the two just got along well; one of the reasons Hillary Clinton might not select Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her ticket is their own alleged coolness to each other. In terms of chemistry, Trump and Gingrich might have something that no other pairing would, since few others have done to politics what they each have, in their own times.
For all of his put-on suck-uppery, Gingrich is one of the few people on Earth who can understand what it’s like to be in Trump’s shoes. Gingrich, over a more gradual period of time and climaxing in the 1994 elections, blew up an existing political era—that of the Democrats’ supposedly permanent House majority. He knows what it is to have the world looking in horror at you for shattering their reality, much as they’re looking at Trump now. He can brief Trump about how to weather this and, should Gingrich cave to the sort of introspection that neither he nor his tutee are known for but which may exist somewhere deep inside, teach him from his own mistakes.
If the case against Gingrich is every conventional indicator, the case for Gingrich is the very rejection of that conventionality, which Trump has cultivated and prospered either in spite or because of. Gingrich is just about the only person in politics who’s on the same page as Trump. Since no human is capable of normalizing the Trump ticket, why wouldn’t Trump just pair himself with someone eager to ride the wave?