Donald Trump is expected to announce who will be his running mate any day now, and one name has become a favorite among the betting crowd: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich may seem an odd pick at first considering his age and personal baggage, but The Donald is, if anything, not your average politician.
The man who created the Contract with America in the 1990s has become a credible VP pick this cycle due to his many TV appearances effectively defending Trump, his fundraising ability, his rapport with both Republican insiders and conservatives, and his reputation as an “ideas man.”
For someone like Trump, who has a lack of allies with these qualities, Newt appears as a beneficial VP choice. And many others think so too, judging by Gingrich’s comfortable lead in the Drudge VP poll. (RELATED: Drudge Poll: Donald Trump Should Pick Newt Gingrich For VP)
However, in spite of the traits that make him attractive on the surface, Gingrich offers a serious problem for Trump’s status as a populist outsider. Mainly, Newt has been on the opposing side on the very issues — immigration, trade and foreign policy — that have driven Trump’s campaign .
Picking the long-time Beltway resident Gingrich could seriously undermine Trump’s appeal to the working class and neuter the appeal that brought millions of Americans to vote for him in the first place.
Here are the issues where Trump and Gingrich seriously differ.
Anti-illegal immigration rhetoric is what Trump first gained notoriety on and it has been his defining issue the entire campaign. He’s vowed to end illegal immigration by building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and granting no amnesty to illegal aliens. He’s called for a temporary moratorium on Muslim immigration. He’s promised to end birthright citizenship and his immigration plan, according to one of his chief advisers, would reduce legal immigration.
Newt, on the other hand, has championed both legalizing illegal immigrants and significantly increasing legal immigration. Furthermore, he single-handedly killed the last, best attempt at reforming America’s immigration laws to benefit citizens instead of non-citizens.
In 1995, a committee chaired by Democratic congresswoman and civil rights activist Barbara Jordan recommended that Congress pass legislation to restrict immigration in order to benefit American workers. Then-President Bill Clinton endorsed the recommendation. However, this reform was stripped out of a 1996 immigration bill thanks in large part due to then-House Speaker Gingrich, effectively killing the one opportunity of having the proposal become law.
When he ran for president in 2012, Gingrich ran as an enthusiastic backer of granting “humane” legalization to illegal immigrants and criticized Mitt Romney’s tough stance on the issue. His campaign even ran a Spanish-language ad against Romney which characterized the future party nominee’s “self-deportation” position as “anti-immigrant.”
Following the 2012 election, he recommended that Republicans do everything possible to not sound like Romney on immigration. “As a party, we simply cannot continue with immigration rhetoric that in 2012 became catastrophic — in large part because it was not grounded in reality,” he said in a fundraising email in early 2013.
During this election cycle, Gingrich has indicated he hasn’t changed his position on illegal immigration. In March, he said Trump is “too strong in talking about illegal immigrants.” He strongly rebuked Trump for the candidate’s comments on the Mexican heritage of Judge Gonzalo Curiel. In response to a question that Trump was possibly changing his stance on mass deportations and the Muslim moratorium in late June, Gingrich enthusiastically said the presumptive nominee was “evolving.”
It’s likely that if Gingrich was the running mate, Trump would “evolve” a lot more into a pro-amnesty position.
Ever since the 1980s, Trump has denounced America’s trade policies for amounting to “bad deals.” During this campaign, he has condemned NAFTA as the “worst trade deal ever signed in the history of our country.” He’s promised to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and has indicated he’s willing to bring back trade protectionism, or what he calls “fair trade.”
Gingrich has long been one of the foremost free traders in the GOP. In fact, he was instrumental in the passage of NAFTA back in the ’90s. He still publicly defended the deal in his 2012 campaign, saying it was a great success because it created jobs in Mexico, arguing, “I’d rather have jobs close to the United States than have jobs overseas in places like China and India.”
In 2000, he argued America should normalize trade relations with China — Trump’s primary foe in his trade rhetoric — for national security reasons.
During his 2012 presidential bid, Club for Growth, a conservative group which hates Trump, praised Gingrich for his opposition to any hint of trade protectionism.
Unlike immigration though, Gingrich has evinced that he’s willing to come to terms with Trump’s support of trade protectionism. He declared last week that he “basically” agreed with everything The Donald said in the candidate’s fiercely anti-free trade speech.
Trump has shaken up the Republican establishment with his positions on foreign policy as much as he has with his trade talk. Calling for an “America First” policy, Trump believes America should free itself of many of its foreign entanglements, have good relations with not-so friendly nations like Russia and never again attempt nation-building. Conservative critics have deemed this policy as “isolationist” and out-of-touch with Republican tradition.
One of the more conventional upholders of that tradition is Newt Gingrich. In 2013, he called himself a neoconservative while admitting some skepticism of American efforts in the Middle East.
During his 2012 primary bid, he was a very unskeptical neocon in his positions. He forcefully attacked Ron Paul as an “isolationist.” He ultimately supported the Libyan intervention. He said America should do its utmost to promote democracy around the world and exert pressure on states that he found to be not-so democratic — such as Russia. He endorsed the U.S. seeking regime change in Iran.
But, similar to trade and possibly out of a desire to shore up his veep chances, Gingrich has complimented Trump for his foreign policy stances.
There’s a few other issues for Trump which a Gingrich selection may undermine. Newt has backed entitlement reform, while Trump has built his campaign around no changes to social security and medicare. Gingrich has championed criminal justice reform, while Trump has presented himself as the law-and-order candidate.
Gingrich may be one of the most effective political communicators of modern times. He may know how to dominate a debate stage. And he may know how to fundraise for a Trump presidential campaign. But his past positions go against the populist-nationalist brand that catapulted Trump to the top of the GOP primary — and would do little to help in a general election.
But one can hope that Trump keeps Gingrich in mind when he’s looking for someone to spearhead the effort to build the first moon colony.