How Mike Pence Could Hurt Trump's Chances

Update: On Friday via one simple tweet, Donald Trump confirmed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is his vice presidential running mate.

Earlier: On Thursday, Reuters reported that Indiana governor Mike Pence may be the potential vice presidential nominee for Donald Trump — leading many to wonder whether Mike Pence could hurt Trump's chances in the upcoming election. Pence as a potential running mate has yet to be confirmed by the Trump campaign; senior communications adviser Jason Miller wrote on Twitter that "a decision has not been made by Mr. Trump. He will be making a decision in the future and will be announcing his Vice Presidential pick tomorrow at 11 am as planned." Furthermore, the New York Times noted that the infamously unpredictable Trump could change his mind before the announcement, having "sent conflicting signals in recent days." However, many have pointed out that if Trump were to choose Pence as a running mate, it's likely to be a safe decision — although as is the case with any campaign, the question of whether the option would help or hurt still remains.

The New York Post notes that Pence would lend Trump's campaign a sense of credibility that has perhaps been lacking; the Indiana governor has 12 years of legislative experience as a staunch conservative and evangelical Christian, which may bolster support for Trump among social conservatives who don't consider him particularly religious. In short, Pence could be a stabilizing force in Trump's decidedly non-traditional campaign if he were to be chosen as a running mate.

That being said, no vice presidential pick is perfect — if he's chosen, here's how Mike Pence could end up hurting Trump's campaign as much as he may help.

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First, Pence may have served 12 years in the House of Representatives, but Bloomberg points out that he hasn't accomplished much actual change in his political career, with "scant tangible achievements." Furthermore, much of Pence's appeal lies in his strong religious beliefs, which could be a double-edged sword: Polls suggest that Trump already has many evangelical votes even without a religious running mate, and the governor's commitment to social conservatism could backfire by bringing attention to issues Trump's campaign has largely avoided in the past.

There are two topics on which Pence is particularly out of step with Trump’s campaign: LGBT rights and immigration. Trump has relied heavily (and controversially) on stirring up strong anti-immigration sentiment, including a declaration that he would ban Muslims from entering the United States, and his proposed immigration plan is both vague and sweepingly conservative. Despite his conservative views, Pence takes a more liberal stance on immigration than Trump. In 2006, he was involved in an immigration reform program that was criticized by more conservative Republicans at the time. He has even publicly spoken out against Trump's proposed Muslim ban, calling it "offensive and unconstitutional" back in December.

In contrast, Pence is far more conservative than Trump when it comes to LGBT rights. He strongly opposed Obama's decision to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," and when the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned, he expressed disappointment at the ruling. As governor of Indiana last year, he came under fire for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. Trump, on the other hand, has generally proven to be more moderate (or at least not overtly homophobic) in his views toward the LGBT community, when he's spoken about them at all.

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Although there's no doubt that Pence would bring political credibility to Trump's campaign if he were to be chosen as a running mate, his strong social conservatism might draw even more scrutiny to the presumptive Republican nominee's campaign — it remains to be seen whether Trump's campaign will stand the test.