“The Apprentice” is back for its latest season. Unfortunately, this time it is searching for the person who might be Donald Trump’s Number Two in the White House. A lot of the drama is taking place in the midwest, and all eyes are squarely on Indiana.
The quest for Trump’s Vice President has more or less narrowed down to three possibilities: Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Chris Christie, or Newt Gingrich. Trump has been spending a lot of time in Indiana, and just had a rally in Indiana with Pence, where Pence likened him to none other than Ronald Reagan (the fact that Reagan’s son said that Trump is an “embarrassment” to the Republican Party hasn’t prevented some from making this comparison at times).
Time is running out, with the Republican National Convention starting in just a few days. Trump has now committed to rolling out his running mate this Friday (although he has previously blown past his self-imposed deadlines). This is also the date that Pence would have to remove himself from the ballot for reelection, so that might not be a coincidence.
Governor Pence is currently locked in an unexpectedly tight reelection fight against his opponent from 2012, so it is very possible that he views that accepting the Vice Presidential nomination as an easy way out of an election that he may very well lose (which would end his White House prospects for the near future). This would leave Indiana Republicans without a candidate for Governor, and I have heard a lot of speculation that former Governor Mitch Daniels would be more than willing to consider running for his old job. All told, I think that Pence would still win reelection (although it is worth remembering that Barack Obama did carry Indiana by a slim margin in 2008). Pence is described by many as the “safe” choice for Trump, which of course actually makes his selection slightly less likely. If Pence is Trump’s safe and logical choice, Christie or Gingrich represent his gut, and more risky choices. Given the nonchalance with which Trump has run most of his campaign, that almost makes Christie or Gingrich more likely.
However, that is not all! The Democrat running for Senate just dropped out of the race, because he could barely raise any money and was all but guaranteed to lose. Baron Hill decided to call it quits, because he was not going to beat Republican Todd Young (Hill also lost reelection to the House in 2010 to none other than Young). The surprise news was that former Governor Evan Bayh, a Democrat with a track record of winning tough elections, as well as part of an Indiana political dynasty, decided that he would jump into the race. Bayh has almost $10 million in his campaign account that he has been sitting on for years, so he actually starts out with way more money than Young currently has, which is a huge plus for him, and one of the reasons that national Democrats (including Chuck Schumer, who spent months begging for him to run) were so excited about him running. All of that notwithstanding, the election is still very likely to remain a Republican win, but Republicans might have to spend a little money here that they wish they could spend elsewhere.
To add an added level of intrigue, consider the following bit of Indiana history. Bayh is now running for the Senate seat that retiring Senator Dan Coats won in 2010 after Bayh retired. When Bayh was first elected to the Senate, he filled a vacancy that Coats left after his first time serving in the Senate. Coats was elevated to the Senate in 1989 to replace Vice President Dan Quayle, who had been promoted to the Vice Presidency from the Senate.
This leads me to a joke that I have always found funny: George HW Bush’s selection of Dan Quayle at the Republican National Convention is highly…unconventional, since most Vice Presidential nominees are not secrets by the time the conventions roll around. The joke goes that Bush 41 said “bring me the Senator from Indiana” when he was asked who he wanted as Vice President, and his staffers brought along Dan Quayle instead of Richard Lugar.
However, this is where I want to inject a little bit of wishful thinking into the equation. Bayh, a former Senator, was just dropped into the race to save Democrats. Young is by all accounts a good candidate who will probably win. He also was a former staffer to Senator Lugar (and Mitch Daniels was actually Lugar’s driver at one point). I think that it makes sense that if Democrats are dropping a former Senator into the Senate race, Republicans should do the same, and Senator Lugar would be a terrific choice. He hasn’t missed a beat since leaving office, and is working on some of the same key areas–nuclear non-proliferation, food security, bipartisanship–that were hallmarks of his 36 years in the Senate at The Lugar Center.
Although that remains unlikely, we’ve all seen crazier things happen in 2016, and with all eyes on Indiana, we can be sure to expect some further surprises.