If Donald Trump were to pick Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House and Georgia congressman, as his running mate, he’d get someone with nearly 40 years of experience in dealing with public policy, Charles Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Wednesday afternoon.
Gingrich would have “a good feel for Congress, and particularly for the U.S. House,” Bulloch said, and he might be able to help Trump pass legislation to put some of his ideas into practice.
Trump “may not have any idea who he is going” to pick for the running mate spot, Bullock said.
Gingrich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been said to be the final contenders for vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket less than a week before the GOP meets in Cleveland for its nominating convention.
That’s according to a person familiar with Trump’s thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the vetting process. Trump said in a Tuesday interview with The Wall Street Journal that Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is also still in the mix.
Douglas Young, political science and history professor at the University of North Georgia, said, “This has been the most unusual, even bizarre, presidential election of my lifetime.”
Bullock added that Gingrich also would have some negatives.
“The Democrats were never particularly fond of him,” Bullock said.
He pointed out the federal government was shut down for some time while Gingrich was speaker of the House.
He added that an incident when Gingrich flew on Air Force One and complained of having to leave through the rear of the plane “led some people to say he looked petty.” The former speaker also has “pretty high” negative feelings among women, Bullock pointed out.
Trump was directing his staff to prepare for a Friday announcement.
Christie also has experience in office, Bullock said, but he, too, has high negatives — primarily from the “bridgegate” scandal in which his top aides were accused of causing extensive traffic jams on a bridge to New York because the mayor of a nearby town did not support Christie in his re-election bid.
Pence “maybe has the fewest problems, but maybe also is the least well-known of the three,” Bullock said.
He said the Indiana governor served in the House and has that legislative experience. Plus, he might help the Republicans hold a U.S. Senate seat. Incumbent Sen. Dan Coates is not running for re-election and former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh has announced he will run.
Douglas said a choice of either Gingrich or Christie “would excite the Republican base” more than Pence. Both men also have high name recognition — more so than the Indiana governor — and could “raise a lot of money.”
He praised Gingrich as “extraordinarily articulate” and “a rare intellectual who is able to portray complex phenomena in laymen’s terms.” Douglas also noted that Christie is an excellent debater.
Young said the Gingrich “did more than anyone for the Republicans to become the majority party for the first time in 40 years.” That was in 1994 when the GOP won the House and Gingrich was elected speaker.
However, he said, Pence is probably “the safer choice” for Trump. He has government experience at the federal and state level and is more likely to not create controversy.
Christie and Gingrich are both “polarizing,” he said. Gingrich sometimes loses his temper, and Christie has the image of a bully, he said.
Young also said the image of Trump and Gingrich might not be welcome in today’s political climate — two old, heavyset, rich white men.
He noted that both might be attacked for multiple marriages and womanizing.
Christie, he said, likely would be attacked “completely unfairly” for his weight.
“It’s a little bit like ‘The Apprentice,’” Gingrich said in a Tuesday interview with Fox News Channel. “You find out sooner or later who the last one standing is.”
Trump has spent weeks consulting with friends and family as he weighs the most important decision of his campaign to date.
Trump told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday he is looking for a “fighter skilled in hand-to-hand combat” as his second-in-command, but hadn’t seen enough of Pence to measure his fight. Pence’s speech at a Trump rally appeared to be an effort from the former congressman to show Trump he could take on such a role.
Pence and Gingrich would be welcome picks among anxious Republican officials already gathering in Cleveland for next week’s convention. Their governing experience and popularity among the party’s conservative base would mark a sharp contrast to Trump, whose brand of politics has alienated hard-line conservatives and establishment Republicans alike.
In an interview with The Associated Press Monday, Trump said he’d narrowed his list to four contenders. He appeared to have made progress by Tuesday, when he told Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly that he had “a pretty good idea” of his pick.
Still, he appeared to agree with O’Reilly’s complaint that his campaign’s plans for a Friday announcement are ill-conceived, because fewer people tend to watch the news that day.
“When I heard I was doing it on Friday, I was saying, I wonder if those people know me very well,” Trump said of his campaign staff.
Trump’s team has been building hype for the decision, including in a text message to supporters that urged recipients to sign up to receive an early notification of the choice. Fox News Channel added to the speculation Tuesday when it said it had suspended its contributor agreement with Gingrich “due to the intense media speculation” about his potential to join Trump’s ticket.
Less than an hour later, Gingrich appeared on the network and suggested Trump’s decision was imminent.
“My guess is you’re going to hear either tomorrow or Thursday,” Gingrich said. “Certainly no later than Friday, because they’re going to want to dominate the weekend news with the new vice presidential selection.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.