And then McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.
The Palin pick undercut McCain's main argument against Obama: In his own running mate, McCain had picked someone who was elected governor of a small state less than two years before (in 2006) and had two fewer years in an important office than Obama, who had been elected to the Senate in 2004. How could Palin be ready for the presidency if Obama wasn't?
In picking Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, Donald Trump similarly undercuts some of his core arguments against Hillary Clinton. And since Fix founder and head honcho emeritus Chris Cillizza ran down the "five reasons Mike Pence makes a lot of sense as Donald Trump’s vice president," we thought his case merited a counterpoint.
Here are four ways that Pence hampers Trump's ability to attack Clinton, listed by the arguments he's used:
1. She's too much of an insider.
Trump used this line of attack to great effect in the Republican presidential primary, and in a speech June 22, he picked apart Clinton's record piece by piece, arguing that she's benefited from a rigged Washington system and is basically the ultimate insider.
But in Pence, Trump has picked his own insider. Pence has held elective office for the past 15-plus years — first 12 years in Congress and then three-plus as governor of Indiana. What's more, while in Congress, he chaired the House Republican Conference, the fourth-highest leadership position in that chamber.
In fact, of all those on the short list to become Trump's VP pick, Pence was arguably the most insider-y of all. Chris Christie has never served in Congress, and while Newt Gingrich was House speaker, he has fallen out of favor with the political establishment and presents more as an outsider.
2. She is pro-war.
Trump adviser Stephen Miller had this to say after Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton last week: "Today, Bernie Sanders will be endorsing one of the most pro-war, pro-Wall Street and pro-offshoring candidates in the history of the Democratic Party."
Trump has indeed tried to cast himself as opposed to the Iraq War that Clinton voted to authorize, using it to call into question her judgment and saying she's "trigger-happy."
But Pence was among the biggest supporters of the war that Trump says is such a disaster. He voted for it and was a co-sponsor of the resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq. When criticism of the war escalated, Pence in 2007 maintained that a visit to downtown Baghdad revealed it "was just like any open-air market in Indiana in the summertime." The New York Times reported later that extreme security measures were taken to protect those making that visit, who included McCain.
As Politico writes:
In 2008, [Pence] included an entire page on his congressional website devoted to defending the war, calling the capture of Saddam Hussein “a victory of incalculable value to the security and freedom of the Iraqi people.”“By ignoring President Bush’s ultimatum to leave Iraq, Saddam Hussein exhausted his final opportunity to avoid removal by force,” said Pence’s website, which has since been taken down. “Military engagement became necessary to prevent Hussein from threatening the United States and its allies.”
3. She is too soft on ISIS and refugees.
Trump has sought to cast Clinton as soft on potentially dangerous refugees, pointing out she that has advocated increasing the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States. "Under her plan, we would admit hundreds of thousands of refugees from the most dangerous countries on Earth, with no way to screen who they are, what they are, what they believe, where they come from,” he said last month.
Pence has been on the same page as Trump when it comes to Syrian immigration — attempting (unsuccessfully) to block Syrian immigrants from coming to his state.
But when it comes to Trump's ban on Muslim immigration, Pence has denounced it in no uncertain terms.
Pence's take on this policy was basically the same as Clinton's. Team Clinton can now respond to Trump's calls for a Muslim immigration ban by pointing out that his own running mate dismissed it as a terrible idea.
4. She is pro-free trade.
Trump is pressing hard on this one, hoping it helps him in the Rust Belt states that have been most negatively affected by free trade policies. He has cited "the devastation caused by the trade policies of Bill and Hillary Clinton." Among those policies are NAFTA, which came from the Clinton administration.
That could be an especially potent line of attack. But Trump's running mate happens to have been one of the most pro-free-trade lawmakers in Congress. "So, Mike Pence has been a huge supporter of the thing Donald Trump says is terrible for America," wrote Wonkblog's Jim Tankersley on Thursday. Pence voted for every free-trade deal while in Congress and has continued to promote free trade as Indiana governor — including President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Pence backed trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, Panama, Peru, Oman, Chile and Singapore during his House tenure from 2001 through 2012. He voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.He voted to keep the United States in the World Trade Organization and to maintain permanent normal trade relations with China, the country Trump repeatedly criticizes for unfair trade practices and threatens with tariffs to boost U.S. job creation.Pence also has publicly supported the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement of Pacific Rim nations, an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that Trump opposes and has likened to rape.As governor, Pence led state trade missions to China and to Japan, another country Trump has threatened with tariffs. He noted that Japan is the state's largest trading partner in a letter to Indiana members of Congress last year, in which he urged them to support the TPP and what is known as "fast-track" trade negotiation authority for the president.
Pence also comes from the same Rust Belt region where Trump hopes this message can change the game. And now Democrats can point to his Rust Belt-governor running mate who supported the kind of free-trade deals he's spent months campaigning against.