Donald Trump knows how to put on a solid media spectacle. But as my colleague Dan Balz so astutely points out, these past 24 to 48 hours of vice-presidential drama suggests a campaign out of control with its messaging.
The Veep drama, which ended after after Trump tweeted Friday morning he'd chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), went something like this: Donald Trump said he had a name. Then he had five, maybe 10. Then one guy in mind. Then two. Maybe it was this guy, he told aides. Yes, definitely this guy. Actually, it might not be this guy; his family and advisers want other guys. Then, publicly: "I haven't made up my mind," Trump said Thursday night, following reports he had indeed made up his mind. Oh wait, he actually has made up his mind — and just in the nick of time.
If you had trouble following that, don't feel bad — even the people involved were a little lost. Here's a rundown, to the best we can ascertain, of what happened:
Each day seems to bring a different top contender. But finally...
Trump’s campaign manager tells reporters that a vice-presidential announcement will be made Friday morning in New York. Candidates include: Pence, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Rumors abound that Trump had picked Pence. Reports surface that Pence would be in New York ahead of Friday's announcement.
Roughly 11 a.m. Eastern time: Roll Call — a publication best known for its insidery Capitol Hill reporting — reports that Pence is the pick:
Roughly 11:01 a.m.: Other media outlets scrambled to confirm. But they couldn't even read the first story to call it Pence because Roll Call's site was down. (Whether terrible timing or a reflection of the interest in Trump's veepstakes is unclear.)
11:15 a.m.: Media outlets kinda sorta confirm it's Pence, but they couch it in language vague enough to severely confuse the average readers/viewer as to whether Trump has actually picked Pence. Why? Because Trump's aides caution that the decision isn't set in stone — and the presumptive nominee could still change his mind. He has yet to call Pence — or any of the other VP finalists.
Approximately 12:05 p.m.: Pence's hometown paper, the Indianapolis Star, says it's the governor, citing the same thing everyone else is citing — unnamed sources.
At some point Thursday: Per ace political reporter Robert Costa — THE reporter for Trump veepstakes — we now know Trump wasn't happy with Pence's name surfacing so early Thursday.
1 p.m.: Gingrich tells reporters he's expecting a call any minute now from Trump to tell him he's picked Pence.
2 p.m.: The call apparently didn't happen. Gingrich hosts a Facebook town hall, a surreal and slightly awkward moment given all indications were Gingrich really, really wanted the job and isn't going to get it.
4:51 p.m.: Donald Trump's son makes a joke that I'm pretty sure was not very funny to those named Pence, Gingrich or Christie.
5:30 p.m.: The day ends much the same way it began: In confusion. This reporter goes to get a drink.
6:09 p.m.: Trump postpones his announcement for Friday in light of the terrorist attacks in Nice, France. An announcement is expected over the weekend.
Some point Thursday night: We write a story explaining how this lack of clarity puts Pence in a tough spot, because he has until noon Friday to take himself off the ballot for his reelection for governor.
7 p.m.: Trump's son pushes back on criticism this whole thing has gotten out of hand.
8 p.m.: Trump himself chimes in and basically undoes every piece of reporting from the day (except for Costa's!) by saying he hasn't made a decision.
Still no word on whether Trump has made up his mind.
8 a.m.: Reporters are staking out the Indiana secretary of state's office to see if Pence (or an aide) will stroll in to take his name off the ballot, a key indicator he's been tapped as Trump's running mate.
8:48a.m.: Still waiting...
10:52 a.m.: With 68 minutes to spare, Trump has made up his mind. It's Pence.
12:08 p.m.: Pence withdraws from the governor's race and switches gears for what's sure to be an epic White House contest.
Update: The drama continues
1:40 p.m.: As the dust of Trump's announcement settled, some folks close to his campaign were apparently stirring it all up again with this:
Trump's spokesman strongly denied that was the case, but as The Fix's Aaron Blake writes, the way his campaign handled the past 24 hours gives us little confidence to believe Trump had made up his mind.