When Donald John Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election at the Trump Tower to an audience of about a thousand supporters on a blustery New York morning on June 16, 2015, no one could’ve anticipated the impact that he would have on this election cycle. No one (aside from Ann Coulter) could’ve even envisioned Mr. Trump winning the GOP presidential nomination. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time – even Mr. Trump himself -, there was a leadership void within the Republican Party that was crying out to be filled.
The billionaire’s no-nonsense style, outsider status, business savvy and keen political instincts drew in the support of blocks of politically frustrated middle class conservatives, tea partiers and Ron Paul’s orphaned paleolibertarians, who were all looking for a champion to lead them and give their struggle a voice. In the following months, these disparate groups of voters organically coalesced into a powerful coalition which has propelled Mr. Trump’s candidacy from the fringes of the race to the summit of the Republican nomination leaderboard with surprising, albeit controversial, ease.
And to think, the teetotaler wasn’t even certain about running as late early 2015. There were real fears that similar to the general elections of 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, Mr. Trump would not make a bid for the nomination despite giving indications that he might.
His giddying ascension in the polls has been met with incredulous wonder by the media and more established candidates who have long fallen to the wayside. His combative performances in the debates left his opponents tongue-tied, much to the delight of his supporters. His controversial off-the-cuff deliveries and political incorrectness are viewed proudly by his legion of followers. His war cry, Make America Great Again, has galvanized even the elderly to attend his lively rallies.
Mr. Trump’s in-your-face style has drawn a lot of flak from all corners, but only a fool would doubt that there is a method behind his apparent madness. As the former reality TV star has demonstrated repeatedly throughout his career, his audacity is always accompanied by a ferocious intelligence.
There is simply no denying that Mr. Trump has changed the face of American politics forever. And the prospect of a businessman being elected to the White House has rekindled century-old memories of the Roaring Twenties when entrepreneurs such as Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office.
Mr. Trump’s nationalist populist brand of politics captured the imagination of the nation, and powered his victory in the Republican primaries. However, will the charismatic real estate tycoon be able to use an identical approach in his White House run, or will he pivot to the center and reign in his explosive personality? Will he be able to unite the party’s fractured base and win over the agitated social conservatives? Will Miley Cyrus move out of the country if Mr. Trump is elected?
In the 2010 Values Voters Summit held in Washington D.C., Michael Richard Pence came up a surprising first in a poll among potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates in a strong field featuring luminaries and party heavyweights such as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Critics were quick to point out that a straw poll conducted among a small group of conservatives can hardly be considered as a fair reflection of sentiments on the ground. Others, however, highlighted that the demographics of the summit’s attendees are a good representation of the conservative base of the Republican Party.
Ironically, at the start of his political career, Gov. Pence’s two failed attempts for a seat in the U.S. House of Representative in 1988 and 1990 were blamed on his then radical conservative ideas. And yet, over the next two decades, Gov. Pence stood at the forefront of the conservative political realignment which ultimately saw his so-called fringe political positions becoming mainstream. By the end of his six terms in Congress, Gov. Pence also became the third most powerful Republican in Congress. Incredibly, his stock rose even higher when the tea party movement emerged in 2009. There are still some who questioned why the father of three did not make a serious attempt to win the GOP presidential nomination in the last two general election cycles.
With a well-documented track record of opposition to abortions, gay marriage, federal entitlement programs and government bailouts, Pence is the rock star of the conservative and evangelical base. His courageous revolt against former President Bush’s Wall Street bailout bill in 2008 brought him into national prominence and cemented his heartthrob status in the conservative heartland. His proclamation during the 2010 Values Voters Summit - "I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican – in that order" - has even been printed on t-shirts and bumper stickers.
Donald Trump’s decision to choose Gov. Pence as his running mate for the 2016 presidential election will not only guarantee Mr. Trump a vice president with zero skeletons in his closet, but also a home ground advantage in the Rust Belt and Bible Belt states.