It was a vice presidential announcement unlike any in modern times.
You may have missed Donald Trump’s introduction Saturday of Mike Pence as his running mate, because it turned into another nationally-televised, rambling demonstration of how the Republican campaign is all about Trump. Trump spoke for 28 minutes, alone on the stage, rarely mentioning the Indiana governor before eventually introducing him..
Some of his disconnected monologue was an effort to write, or rewrite history—Pence’s endorsement of rival Ted Cruz this spring was “really more of an endorsement for me,” Trump said.
Some was Trump explaining why Democrat Hillary Clinton is responsible for the world’s turmoil.
Some was Trump careening between boasting about his “landslide” wins, plugging his new Washington, D.C. hotel, being right on Brexit and immigration, and so on.
When he finally got to Pence, Trump didn’t convey much excitement, and eventually read from notes that described the wonders of Indiana’s economy and how Pence made it so.
It was all a vivid reminder that this campaign is largely a solo act, and that once Pence gives his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, he may rarely be noticed nationally again.
Which is too bad for the GOP ticket, because Pence showed why party insiders regard him so highly. When he finally joined Trump on stage, he gave a calm, pointed speech, describing himself as “really just a small- town boy who grew up in southern Indiana with a big family and a cornfield in the backyard.”
I watched my mom and dad build everything that matters: A family, a business, and a good name
Mike Pence Saturday describing his background
Today, Pence said, he’s “a pretty basic guy… a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”
Pence’s plea, though, came only after Trump’s stream of consciousness talk. He first mentioned Pence by saying he was “my first choice,” though he reportedly was having doubts just hours before he tweeted the pick Friday morning.
Trump hardly sounded excited about his own choice. “One of the reasons is party unity, I have to be honest,” he said. “Because I’m an outsider. I want to be an outsider. I think it’s one of the reasons I won in landslides. This wasn’t close.”
Indiana? “I won Indiana big. Indiana was going to the firewall,” he recalled. Correct. Indiana’s May 3 primary was where Cruz aimed to stop Trump’s momentum. Trump won by 17 points, and Cruz dropped out that night.
Pence endorsed Cruz just before the primary. People misread that endorsement, Trump insisted.
“I learned that when Governor Pence, under tremendous pressure from establishment people, endorsed somebody else, but it was more of an endorsement for me, if you remember,” Trump said.
It was the single greatest non- endorsement I've ever had in my life, OK?
Trump recalling Pence’s endorsement of Ted Cruz
As the time to finally introduce Pence neared, Trump maintained that Pence would have easily won re-election this year in Indiana. Maybe not, since polls showed Pence’s re-election bid in some jeopardy.
That didn’t deter Trump. He rattled off data painting Indiana as a Midwestern paradise. He noted Indiana’s unemployment rate, 8.4 percent when Pence took office, went below 5 percent, which is correct. The rate in May was 5 percent, just above the national rate of 4.7 percent. The state ranked first in the Midwest for doing business, according to Chief Executive magazine.
Trump noted that during Pence’s term, the state labor force increased by more than 186,000 jobs, which is accurate.
The state’s economy grew at a 2.2 percent pace in both 2013 and 2014, matching or exceeding gains in the U.S. overall.
According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, over the past three years, Indiana’s private sector has grown by more than 147,000 jobs. Indiana’s private sector employment growth since July 2009, surpassed the nation: 13.7 percent vs. 12.6 percent.
Trump maintained Indiana is one of the nation’s best places for young people to live and find work. Indianapolis is tenth on Forbes’ list of top 20 cities for young professionals, citing its strong projected annual job growth over a three-year period
Trump did not mention his differences with Pence on free trade, or how Pence in December criticized his running-mate’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering this country as “offensive and unconstitutional.”
Pence Thursday said he now supports a ban on immigration from nations where”terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States.” Pence has long been an advocate for removing international barriers to trade; Trump wants tougher restrictions.
None of that was debated Saturday. Trump painted his rosy picture of Pence, then pivoted from praising Indiana’s infrastructure to touting his plans to build a U.S.-Mexico wall and his Washington, D.C. hotel project.
“Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump,” he said. “I build infrastructure. Do I know how to build a wall? Do I know how to build infrastructure?”