The circus is coming to town
Prepare yourself for The Apprentice Survivor Idol Veepstakespalooza in the lead-up to the Republican nominating convention. A reality show-type competition to select his second term running mate is too perfectly Trumpian for it not to happen. He’ll invite Vice President Mike Pence to reapply, but his job will be made available to a host of eager applicants.
The selection process will be made public via Donald Trump’s Twitter account, his public utterances, comments of various informed surrogates, and well-placed leaks to the press. There will be a gradual winnowing of the field to heighten the drama and create competition in intrigue among the remaining contestants. There will be WWE Smackdown jabber and Dr. Philish “oh-no-you-won’t-sleep-with-my-brother-only-I-can” made for TV and social media soundbites to keep even the basest of Trump’s deplorable MAGA base tuned-in for the blood sport.
There is no way that showman Trump will allow the Democrats, who will select two reality competition winners of their own during the first half of 2020, a spotlight all to themselves in the very genre in which he thrives. Attempting to command the spotlight is smart politics. For Trump, it is also an instinctive reflex built smack into the core of his innermost lizard brain.
Democrats will have a show of their own
The Democrats have the drama surrounding the selection of their Presidential nominee. The nomination battle will be a massive story during the first quarter of the year. There exists the distinct possibility the nomination fight may also consume a considerable share of political oxygen during the second quarter as well. That will happen if the early state nominating contests fail to coronate a victor and the race slogs on. It is even possible, but not likely, that the intrigue could last right to the Democratic Party convention in Milwaukee in mid-July.
There will be speculation and build-up around the selection of the Democratic running mate. This story will be hot during June and pre-convention July. Whatever happens with the selection of the Democratic nominees for President and Vice President, we know that will be concluded by July 16 when their convention ends — and the historic ‘honeymoon period’ for the Democratic ticket will begin.
Trump is a modern-day P.T. Barnum
So also will begin a nearly 6-week gap until the GOP convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. No competent campaign would cede those weeks to the opponents. Even the Trump campaign will not let the time pass without doing all they can to steal the spotlight. How better for Trump to do that than by creating a personal reality show. The modern-day P.T. Barnum will step to the center ring in his bully pulpit Big Top.
Soon after the balloons drop in Milwaukee, we’ll see a tweet from Trump along these lines, “Mike Pence has been a great VP. Not great like me, but many people say I was brilliant to pick him in 2016. Totally my idea. But every smart American wants to run with me. I only pick the best people. I’ll consider all potential candidates, including Mike. STAY TUNED.”
A political reality show
Speculation will immediately turn to Nikki Haley as the most likely pick for his second term Veep. In the mix also will be the names of such garden variety Republicans like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, Mike Pompeo, Marsha Blackburn, Josh Hawley, Tim Scott, Scott Walker, and Lindsey Graham. Each offers potential attributes and advantages. So also might Wisconsinite Sean Duffy — a former Congressman and reality show star.
His ardent defenders among the Congressional GOP ranks like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz will be disappointed to find themselves left out of any serious conversations. Don’t count out chatter about celebrities like Kanye West or media superstars like Sean Hannity being under consideration.
Expect there will be speculation about both Ivanka and Don Jr., fueled most likely fueled by President Trump himself. He could tweet, “I’m so great at being President that many people say I should be my own running mate. But that would make the Do-Nothing Democrats even crazier. So, maybe I’ll pick the next best thing. A Trump–Trump ticket?”
Don’t forget that Mike Pence will also further prostrate any remaining semblance of dignity he possesses by trying to stay under relevant consideration for his job. Anyone else who’s risen to the political heights he has would have the self-respect to walk away following a public castration. Don’t expect Pence to do that. “Hello, Mr. Trump. Don’t forget about me.” Adoring gaze. Gravel. Gravel.
The Democratic ticket won’t know how to respond. They’ll try to act serious and statesman/stateswoman-like, which will be the entirely wrong answer to draw serious attention from Trump’s theatrics. Showman Trump will have created the political equivalent of a bearbaiting. The spectacle will be loud, gaudy, vulgar, and tawdry like Trump himself — and it will be impossible to look away or for the media to not cover every rumor and development in the contest.
Trump’s potential Republicans Got Talent, But Family Trump Has More reality fest will not guarantee he’ll be successful in November. However, failing to recognize his preternatural sense of theater and drama poses the distinct possibility of dooming the Democrats to defeat and saddling the United States of America with a second term for President Donald. J. Trump — and Vice President Donald J. Trump Jr.
Jeff Timmer is a political consultant and strategist. He was Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party and is now an erstwhile GOPer. Follow him on Twitter @jefftimmer.