Donald Trump is winning the independent vote. Yes, you heard that right. Most polls now show that independents are breaking for Donald Trump. Thus, if he can get close to the same amount of Republican support as Hillary Clinton enjoys from Democrats, he’s got a real shot to be the 45th president of the United States.
Usually a vice presidential pick goes to someone who can help their party's nominee with the key swing states on the electoral map or perhaps, help with a particular demographic group.
In Trump’s case he is very competitive in most key swing states and again, he is winning with independent voters.
What Trump needs is a VP running mate who can bring the GOP base home and increase his vote with the rank and file Republican electorate.
Trump has also shared with us the key qualities he is looking for in a running mate. Former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, who now advises the Trump campaign, says the blue collar billionaire wants a running mate who understands terrorism and the economy, and who is also capable of getting things done on Capitol Hill. Combine all of this with the recent Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to not prosecute Hillary Clinton and we have a good idea of the specific qualities that a GOP VP nominee should possess in order to maximize Trump’s chances for victory in the fall. Now, let's take a deeper look at all of this:
1. Donald Trump needs a VP running mate who can increase his percentage of support from Republican voters. In Trump’s case, he doesn’t need a VP running mate who can deliver a big state. He needs a running mate who can bring the Republican base home and increase his voter share in all swing states and throughout the country.
2. Trump needs a VP running mate who can prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton to the American people, a task which the government failed to do. Here, Trump needs a seasoned professional and articulate speaker who has command of the facts and a historical understanding of past similar cases.
3. The GOP VP nominee must have a thorough understanding of national security and foreign policy. Keeping America safe is the foremost responsibility of a commander-in-chief. A vice president who is experienced on national security and foreign policy will complement Trump’s instincts to do whatever it takes to protect the American people.
4. The running mate should be a skilled debater who doesn’t require a “learn-up curve” to get up to speed on critical issues, such as the economy.
5. As Trump himself has said, his VP pick has got to be someone who can get things done in Washington and work with Congress to make things happen. In short, he has got to be someone with the ability to make a dysfunctional government work.
Now let’s take a look at how each potential VP pick on Trump's list can help him win the presidency. (I should note that Senators Bob Corker and Joni Ernst have pretty much taken themselves out of consideration and Senator Tom Cotton says he’s not being vetted.) The following are generally considered to be on Trump’s short list:
Chris Christie. The New Jersey Governor is probably more like Trump than any of the other potential VP options. His “no nonsense” style resonates with the “silent majority” who are fed up with Washington. As a former U.S. attorney, he would be very effective in prosecuting the case against Hillary Clinton to the American people.
Jeff Sessions: The Alabama Senator has a strong command of national security issues, stemming from his years of service as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. No one in the Senate has a better understanding of how to deal with illegal immigration and secure U.S. borders, issues which resonate with the Republican base and helped to propel Trump to the nomination, than Sen. Sessions. As a former U.S. attorney and Alabama State Attorney General, he would also be effective in prosecuting the case against Hillary Clinton.
General Mike Flynn: The retired Army Lieutenant General and former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has a real command of national security and what it would take to defeat the global jihadist network. While he may be a dark horse VP candidate, Trump genuinely likes the retired general who has offered his strategic national security advice. Interestingly, Gen. Flynn has a keen understanding of data analytics and technology from his days at DIA. At the very least, Trump should turn Gen. Flynn lose on the RNC to make sure that the GOP has the very best “get out the vote” (GOTV) technology platform and data analytics available to ensure a maximum turnout of the GOP faithful.
Mike Pence: The Indiana governor plays well in the Rust Belt, is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives where he served as chairman of the House Republican Conference, and knows how to get things done in Congress. An evangelical Christian, he resonates with traditional conservatives and evangelicals who are crucial to a GOP victory in the fall.
Newt Gingrich: There is a reason why those attending the recent Trump rally in Ohio erupted into cheers of “Newt, Newt” and the former Speaker of the House won the non-scientific “Drudge Report” VP poll. The grassroots and party activists love him. The man who engineered the “Contract with America” and helped produce America’s first balanced budget since man first walked on the moon, checks many boxes for Trump, the most important for victory being, he drives up the GOP base vote for the ticket. Many traditional Republicans who are not fans of Trump’s either got their start through Gingrich or see him as a political mentor. Ohio Governor John Kasich was selected by Gingrich to be the House Budget Committee Chairman during the 1990s and former New York Governor George Pataki, like so many Republicans and conservative activists, started listening to Newt Gingrich GOPAC tapes in the early 1980s. An articulate debater, there would be no “learn-up curve” for the historian and the Trump campaign could learn much from him.
With radical Islam now on American soil and a $19 trillion debt, 2016 is shaping up to be the most important presidential election of our lifetime. It will be close and there is little margin for error.
Getting the right running mate this time may be the most important selection a Republican nominee has made in modern history.
Van D. Hipp, Jr. is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army. He is the author of the newly released book, "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." All of the author's proceeds go to the National Guard Educational Foundation to fund scholarships for children of fallen Guardsmen. www.thenewterrorism.com Follow him on Twitter @VanHipp.