The Paul Manafort wing of the Trump campaign reportedly pushed for the selection of Mike Pence as VP almost because he wasn’t the candidate that Trump liked best. That was the point! Manafort and the others who’ve tried for months to professionalize Trump’s operation wanted to signal to donors and party leaders that Trump was capable of making a safe, responsible pick rather than following his id and selecting Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie. The message of a Pence pick is that Trump is indeed capable of delaying gratification like an adult and potential president.
But did Trump really commit himself to Pence? Or did the campaign get him to say okay, Pence I guess and then crank the process into motion before he had the chance to change his mind?
CNN reporter Dana Bash set Twitter ablaze Friday afternoon by dropping this absolutely perfect nugget of gossip:
NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell seconded the story:
Trump spokesman Jason Miller, meanwhile, has denied the report:
Bash would add more detail in an appearance on CNN (via The Hill):
“Around midnight last night … Donald Trump was on the phone with senior advisors trying to get out of this,” she said.
“This is after he offered the job to Mike Pence, and they flew him to New York, and they had him sitting in a hotel room in Manhattan thinking he is going to be the vice presidential pick and he just basically dumped his own plans for reelection in Indiana as governor,” Bash added.
“And so what this tells us is that this was so out of Donald Trump’s comfort zone. He does not operate like this.”
Trump was leaning toward New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie while his top aides were beating the drum for Pence, the report said.
“He operates with the gut, and by all accounts if you were following the gut, he would have gone with Chris Christie,” Bash said. “Everybody around him in the campaign apparatus had been making these moves to make it so Mike Pence would be his running mate.”
We don’t know for a fact whether Bash and O’Donnell’s reports are true. What we do know for a fact is that someone, or multiple people, told this to Bash and O’Donnell. Who? A rival faction from within the campaign? Someone close to Chris Christie? Chris Christie himself? This is completely embarrassing news to come shortly after the pick is announced—the two haven’t even appeared in public yet!—while impressions of the Trump-Pence relationship are still being shaped.
Oh, and for Donald Trump: We don’t know how your aides responded to your question about whether it’s too late to dump Pence, but it’s still not! The convention has not nominated him yet; do whatever you want and show Paul “Dad” Manafort who’s boss.