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Power Sheet: Mike Pence Takes a Huge Gamble With Trump

July 15, 2016, 2:32 PM UTC

Because of the terrorist attack in France, Donald Trump this morning is delaying his scheduled announcement of his running mate. But let’s assume, I think safely, that it’s Indiana Governor Mike Pence. To the vast ocean of reportage and analysis the expected announcement is bringing forth, I add only a few drops, in the form of three questions:

-What overlooked facts will be revealed by the unprecedented scrutiny Pence is about to undergo? Hippocrates wrote the No. 1 rule of choosing a running mate: First, do no harm. V.p. nominees rarely help the presidential nominee much or at all but can do a world of damage. Modern campaign operations vet potential v.p.’s with extraordinary intensity, but a) Trump’s organization has shown itself to be amateurish so far, and b) even highly professional organizations are no match for a global army of reporters digging into one person’s life. The next few weeks will tell whether Pence is a liability because of embarrassments in his past, or, ideally for Trump, a competent, harmless, mostly invisible appendage to the campaign.

-How will Pence answer questions about supporting Trump’s most controversial positions? For example, does he agree that Senator and Vietnam prisoner of war John McCain was not a hero? Or that waterboarding “is great”? As a born-again Christian, does he agree with Trump’s theory that the IRS audits him every year because he’s “a strong Christian”? These and several other uncomfortable and inevitable questions for Pence are offered in this New York Times piece.

-For Pence, will accepting this role be “buying a ticket on the Titanic”? That’s how South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham described the Trump v.p. slot before Trump’s choice was known. Many prominent Republicans are refusing to board the Titanic, skipping the convention next week in order to avoid any association with Trump. Pence was in a tight re-election race in Indiana, but he had to drop that in order to run for vice president. So if Trump doesn’t win, Pence will hold no office. If he then wanted to continue in politics, the great question would be whether four months of running alongside Trump improved or diminished his prospects. Say this for Pence: He’s willing to make an enormous gamble.

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What We're Reading Today

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau