Reports are coming in that Donald Trump will announce Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice-presidential nominee on Friday. (Warning: Reporting on the veepstakes has been wrong before.) Trump has done all sorts of unconventional, controversial things during this campaign, but making Pence his running mate would be one of the least puzzling. Trump doesn’t need to make a splash with his pick, and vice-presidential selections usually don’t matter. Moreover, Pence would satisfy two key needs for the Trump campaign: He would be less likely to harm the ticket than the other candidates on Trump’s VP shortlist, and he would likely make the conservative base of the Republican Party happy.
Pence has a lot of experience in politics. The worst thing a vice-presidential candidate can do is make the presidential candidate look bad, e.g., Sarah Palin’s embarrassing moments during the 2008 campaign. Indeed, there’s some research to suggest that she cost Republican John McCain votes in 2008. Palin was a candidate with minimal experience in major elected office and was selected in a rushed vetting process that didn’t expose her flaws. Pence, on the other hand, served in the House from 2001 to 2013 and has been governor of Indiana since 2013. He has a well-established record. Trump would know what he was getting with Pence.
Among the broader electorate, however, Pence is less well known. According to the most recent Marist College survey, 67 percent of Americans could not form a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him.1 That makes him look like a lot of vice-presidential selections since 1976 around the time of their selection.
*Averaged from two polls. All percentages rounded to the nearest whole number.
Pence is somewhat unpopular among …