Trump’s VP search is getting serious

By | March 31, 2024

Donald TrumpMar-a-Lago aides screen potential vice presidential candidates, while the former president puts forward an extensive list of names in private conversations.

Susie Wiles, a top Trump adviser, is leading a process that will narrow down the list of about a dozen lawmakers and other Republican personalities in question, according to multiple people familiar with the process. The campaign has already hired an outside firm to vet candidates and prepare research documents. Former first lady Melania Trumpwhich influenced Trump’s decision to select Mike Pence in 2016, was kept informed. And Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. said he often talks to his father about who is fighting.

While who is higher or lower seemingly changes by the minute, the list includes everyone from Tim Scott And Kristi Noem to Byron Donalds, Elise Stefanik, Tulsi Gabbard and JD Vance, who Trump has called a “fighter.”

Despite Trump saying he doesn’t care much about the vice president, he regularly asks guests at his Mar-a-Lago club for their opinions on various options and, with a sense of suspense, teases his choices in private meetings and in the media. Job interviews. The process is expected to take months.

“He’s going to lay this out in student style,” said a person close to the Trump campaign who was granted anonymity to speak freely.

The former president has said his main criterion is choosing someone “who will be a good president… in an emergency.” But Trump is also sensitive to electoral needs, and part of the consideration is having someone who can help expand his appeal in November.

The names in question remain in flux, according to several people familiar with the list, who describe it as “in pencil, not in pen.” But it includes Sens. Scott of South Carolina, Vance of Ohio, Katie Britt of Alabama and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as governors. Noem from South Dakota, Sarah Huckabee Sanders from Arkansas and Doug Burgum from North Dakota. Donalds, the Florida representative, and Gabbard, the former Hawaii representative, are also under consideration or have been put forward by Trump.

Trump appears to be enjoying the guessing game — which has been going on since he announced his third bid for the White House in November 2022, but has intensified since he clinched the nomination in March.

At a private meeting several weeks ago in Palm Beach, Florida, he and attendees went through the list of possible running mates, including one member of Congress, and commented on each of them. He spoke highly of Stefanik and Gabbard, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation who was granted anonymity to speak freely. And he was dismissive of Scott, suggesting that the senator might not be up to the job of president if necessary.

Still, in a sign of his hesitation, Trump spoke positively about Scott last week, according to a person familiar with a private conversation with the former president. A spokesman for Scott declined to comment.

“He will ask you questions about people,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) said in an interview.

The senator warned that names promoted by Trump allies or political advisors should be treated with skepticism. “All I can tell you is, if you hear names, it’s not going to be them. It’s all propaganda.”

The former football coach said all the name floating around felt familiar: “Just like with football coaches, whenever a position opens up, my agent always puts my name in there to get me a raise, get me publicity and stuff.” Tuberville echoed Trump’s own advisers, who have expressed exasperation with some behind-the-scenes maneuvering by advisers.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former senior adviser in the White House, suggested Trump should choose someone who can help him win and rule, and should not be a distraction as he tries to expand his reach to minority voters, women and political independents. Specifically, she said Trump should select someone who can speak with “conviction and compassion” about abortion and articulate what it means to be a “pro-life Republican” versus “pro-choice Democrat” in 2024.

“Unlike Democrats who are stuck with a wildly unpopular president and vice president, Trump has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to who he can choose,” Conway said in an interview.

She added that when Trump thinks about the vice president, he is also considering people for other top positions in a potential administration: “The VP is the most important decision, but it is broadly focused on staff around the world.”

But everyone has an opinion about job No. 2. Trump Jr. said last week that he regularly speaks with his father about the vice presidential selection process, pushing him to pick a “fighter.” He implicitly criticized Trump’s former vice president, Pence, who refused to support efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

“When people didn’t know Trump beyond some sort of TV personality or businessman, you needed a little more balance. And I think that made a lot of sense to Mike Pence at the time,” Trump Jr. said. to POLITICO at a rally for Senate candidate Jim Banks in Indiana. “Now I think we see where our country is, you need someone who is actually going to fight.”

One candidate Trump has viewed in that light is Vance, whom he called a “fighter” at a rally earlier this month.

“I would love to do it if he asked me, but he hasn’t asked me either,” Vance said in an interview. “I don’t think he’s about to ask anyone. So I think it feels extremely premature.”

As he searches for a running mate this year, those involved are finding ways to be helpful to the campaign. Scott, for example, talks to Trump almost weekly by phone or text, according to a person with knowledge of their relationship who was granted anonymity to speak freely. The senator is also heavily involved as a surrogate for the Trump campaign on TV.

Scott is making fundraising calls at the request of the Trump campaign and will attend rallies and fundraising events when requested, including appearing with Trump, Burgum and former GOP chief rival Vivek Ramaswamy at a major fundraiser in Palm Beach next weekend.

Burgum, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination, recently traveled to Nevada as a surrogate for the Trump campaign to speak to Clark County Republicans. He did not rule out serving in the Trump Cabinet or as vice president when pressed last week by Fox News host Neil Cavuto.

“I’m talking to the former president, but I know he’s going to make a choice about his cabinet and who the vice president is at the time he chooses,” Burgum said, adding that his “name has been around for about six months is discussed. dozens of different cabinet positions.”

The significance of a running mate for the outcome of the elections has long been a subject of discussion. Mitt Romney, who ran for president in 2012, seemed to agree with Trump’s skepticism, saying in an interview: “Vice presidential choices generally don’t make a difference” in elections.

“As they say, VP picks can hurt you, but they rarely help you,” Romney said.

But either decision could make a difference in a general election that could be decided in a few crucial provinces in a handful of battleground states. In 2016, Trump selected Pence to give him conservative bona fides and deliver evangelical voters. And in addition to helping Trump in 2024, the next vice presidential nominee could also have an edge in who Republicans nominate in 2028.

“This person will not be just one heartbeat away from the presidency during President Trump’s next term, but will likely be our nominee in ’28 and serve as president for the next eight years of President Trump’s term,” said Senator Steve Daines (R). -Mont.), who regularly speaks with Trump.

A Republican strategist closely involved with Trump’s campaign said each candidate brings his own baggage: “There’s no one who checks every box he or she is looking for.” For example, Britt had a wide panning State of the Union rebuttal, Noem just made one strange advertisement for veneerand several hopefuls think Trump is too eager, according to two people close to Trump.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said Trump “will choose the best possible person for the job and someone who will fight for the values ​​of America First.”

Trump is expected to make his decision before the Republican nominating convention in July. But it’s probably not imminent, and his campaign faces some calendar restrictions. Trump will spend a month in court hearings this spring.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign has turned the selection process for running mates into a vehicle for their fundraising emails.

As one such email recently put it: “Would you like to know who my VP will be?”

Adam Wren contributed to this report.

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