Donald Trump said Monday that he expects to decide on his vice presidential pick by the end of the week and that he is leaning toward a "political" pick rather than a "military" one.
"I have five people, including the general," Trump told me in a 25-minute phone conversation on Monday morning, referring to retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn. "I do like the military, but I do very much like the political."
Trump added, "I will make my mind up over the next three to four days. In my mind, I have someone that would be really good."
Although Trump was careful not to eliminate Flynn, it was clear that he believed picking someone "political" was the right move, meaning, presumably, that former speaker Newt Gingrich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and one other political person are in his final four.
Trump said he was prizing political experience over military experience for two main reasons.
First, he feels as though he doesn't need much help on the military/national security front.
"I have such great respect for the general, but believe it or not that will be one of my strong suits," he said. "I was against the war in Iraq from the start." (The Washington Post's Fact Checker column disagreed with that assessment.)
Second, Trump sees picking a politician as vice president as the best way to unify the GOP ahead of next week's Republican National Convention and the coming fall campaign. "I don’t need two anti-establishment people," Trump said. "Someone respected by the establishment and liked by the establishment would be good for unification. I do like unification of the Republican Party."
Trump also cited "great chemistry with me" and someone "who can help you win" as major factors in his VP selection process.
Despite making clear that he was nearing a decision on his running mate, Trump seemed to play down the influence any such pick might have. "History has said nobody ever helps," said Trump, citing the selection of Lyndon Johnson as John F. Kennedy's running mate as the last VP pick that truly mattered. "I've never seen anybody that’s helped."
As for suggestions that he might have trouble with a rump "Never Trump" faction at the national convention, the presumptive nominee was totally dismissive of the notion. "Not even a little bit," Trump responded when asked whether he was worried about not formally being named the Republican nominee next week.
If, somehow, he didn't claim the nomination in Cleveland, Trump predicted that "there’d be no such thing as a primary" anymore. "For a period of one year, I traveled the country and beat everybody soundly," he added. "I got almost 14 million votes with 17 people running. I got more votes than anyone in the history of the Republican primary — by millions."