There’s are persistent rumors that Donald Trump might (emphasis on the might) tap Newt Gingrich as his running mate, an idea that gained more currency with Gingrich scheduled to appear with Trump on the campaign trail. Trump’s manifest shortcomings and weird appeal has been covered at length by now, so lets talk about Gingrich.
Though a running mate’s primary constitutional duty is to step in and act as President in the event of the death or impeachment of the sitting President (plus break the occasional tie in the senate), a VP pick is supposed to accomplish three political tasks: Make it easier to win the general election (either by securing their home state or making inroads into a key electoral demographic), be the “bad cop” of the campaign (which ain’t happening, since Trump’s rhetorical style makes him his own bad cop), and to “balance the ticket,” either geographically (Kennedy/Johnson), ideologically (Dukakis/Bentsen), age and experience (Obama/Biden) or some other way. Gingrich would balance the ticket geographically (though if Trump actually needed Gingrich to win Georgia or any of the rest of the “deep” South, his campaign would be in serious trouble), but more importantly would provide a great deal of balance in terms of experience and insider knowledge.
Though stale as to the identities and proclivities of the current crop of insiders, as a former Speaker of the House, Gingrich is a master of the process and minutia of how Capitol Hill actually works. In his heyday, Gingrich was the most effective Republican speaker in my lifetime by a good measure, and possibly the most effective ever (depending on your opinion of Joseph Gurney Cannon, whose career I am not intimately familiar with). A Vice President Gingrich would greatly help cover up Trump’s many blindspots and areas of ignorance, as well as someone who could interface with the House and Senate.
In his heyday, Gingrich was one of the staunchest conservatives in the land. The problem is that Gingrich’s heyday was 1994 (when he unveiled the contract with America and helped Republicans retake the House for the first time since 1952) to 1999 (when he stepped down as Speaker). Since then he’s reinvented himself as an idea-a-minute futurist, offering a blur of interesting ideas, many of which were frequently innovative (but not always good). There’s no question that Gingrich still has the smarts to be an effective VP, but does he still have the focus?
A Trump/Gingrich ticket would probably be the most variable Presidential ticket ever. You could see a dozen innovative initiatives or an explosion of meaningless rhetoric. Trump might offload many policy tasks onto Gingrich (who then might do an excellent job of furthering the Republican agenda), or he might ignore him entirely. Gingrich is one of the very few plausible Trump running mates who would make the ticket more unpredictable.
About the only thing it wouldn’t be is boring.
One final bit of irony would be that liberals would have to refer to Gingrich as the kinder, gentler half of the ticket, something that might have made their heads explode in 1998…