Barry McNamara  |   Published July 14, 2016

Midwest matters

Monmouth’s Johnson says Trump’s VP choice should help him in region
  • Mike Pence speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC. (photo by Gage Skidmore)
A Monmouth College professor said that Republican Donald Trump’s selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate for vice president could be a sign that the businessman is becoming more politically adept. Pence’s selection, announced Friday morning, could also help Trump pick up support in key Midwest states.

“Pence is a more traditional candidate,” said Robin Johnson, who is a Monmouth political science lecturer and also host of Talking Politics on KBUR-AM in Burlington, Iowa. “It actually goes against the grain of most of the decisions that Trump has made. It might indicate he’s making changes in his approach to his campaign. Or it could only last a day.”

Johnson pointed to Pence’s experience in federal and state government, his appeal to the Republican social conservatives and his Midwest roots as “checking off a lot of the boxes where Trump is deficient.”

Johnson said the Midwest box that Pence checks off could come into play in November. Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin could prove to be pivotal states in the presidential election, as well as possibly Michigan.

“This election will be decided here,” Johnson said of the Midwest. “Lots of Midwest states will be up for grabs. As you look around the rest of the nation, there are far fewer states in play.”

Johnson also said that Pence could play the “bulldog role in going on the offensive against Democrats,” similar to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who Trump also considered for the ticket.

“I thought he might go with Christie because they have a similar demeanor, and Christie really stepped up for him,” he said.

Johnson said the twists and turns of this unpredictable presidential campaign have made it “hard to make predictions this year,” but he predicted a tight general election.

Although presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “has a slight edge, I still think this will be a close race,” he said. “Clinton’s email problems have manifested themselves in some of the recent polls.”

As far as next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Johnson said, “It looks like Trump will beat back the forces that are trying to get delegates to vote their conscience on the floor. I don’t think that’s going to happen but, as I said, this has been a very tough year to predict.”

Johnson conducted several polls in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, and more pre-election polls sponsored by Monmouth College will be published later this fall.

Johnson also plans to hold a post-election forum on campus. He said College officials are also working on a pre-election forum to discuss “key states, counties and demographics and help guide Monmouth students and the local community through the issues in this very important election for the future of our country.”
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