Why Trump could pick a running mate who called him 'know-nothing'

As Donald Trump looks to pick a vice president, some Republicans are lining up – even if they weren't supportive in the past. 

Jose Luis Magana/AP/File
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at an event in Washington in this file photo.

Yes, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s not sure yet whether he’ll support Donald Trump. Former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush aren’t going to the Republican National Convention. Sen. Lindsey Graham isn’t either – the former GOP presidential hopeful announced on Friday that he won’t vote for Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton) in the fall.

But this doesn’t mean all Republican luminaries are recoiling from the prospect of a Trump general election run. Far from it. Some are all but waving their hands in the air, trying to catch The Donald’s eye as he looks around for a running mate. “Pick me! Pick me!”

Take Rick Perry. The former Texas governor criticized Trump harshly in a speech last July. “Donald Trump is the modern day incarnation of the know-nothing movement,” Mr. Perry said.

Circumstances change. Perry went nowhere. Trump won. On Thursday, Perry said he’d support the real estate billionaire and do all he can to help him beat likely Democratic nominee Mrs. Clinton.

“He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them,” Perry told CNN.

Asked if he would serve as vice president, Perry said he’d be able to help in any way he can. “I am not going to say no,” said the Texan.

Then there’s Newt Gingrich. The former House speaker has been a fairly constant defender of Trump in the media since the campaign began. Though to be fair, Mr. Gingrich has defended pretty much every GOP hopeful at one time or another. In any case he may be waging a behind-the-scenes effort on the part of a Trump VP hopeful: himself.

His name has popped up on lists of possible running mates. Some Trump advisers acknowledge that they’ve noticed and appreciated Newt’s support.

“It has become apparent that Gingrich is waging an active campaign to become Donald Trump’s running mate,” wrote Myra Adams of the right-leaning National Review earlier this week.

What this shows is that politics can be a complicated game of shifting alliances. Yesterday’s foe is today’s friend; someone who appears philosophically incompatible may be a compatriot for reasons of his or her own. Ambition and ideology are constant, expected, and unpredictable. That’s one reason politics is like chess played in 3-D.

Might Trump pick either man? It’s not out of the question. He’s said he wants an experienced politician and both qualify there. Perry might have the edge – he’s served in office more recently. He’s a conservative, and as Speaker Ryan’s hesitance shows, that’s a faction Trump may need to mollify.

Others may be higher on the list, though. Trump’s said he wants to vet recent rival John Kasich. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has said “no thanks” but Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says she supports Trump “100 percent” and would be honored to be his running mate. 

In the end it may not make much difference in November. As the Monitor’s Francine Kiefer wrote earlier this week, “Even a carefully chosen running mate isn’t likely to make or break ... campaigns, which will rise or fall mostly on their merits.”

But the decision can help around the margins – and it does give voters a useful look at a candidate’s thinking process, Ms. Kiefer adds.

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