Trump will likely not wait until the convention to make his choice. In a year where all the suspense has disappeared from the campaign, the former president’s vice-presidential pick will hold the drama in the electoral side of a contest that will go sideways more times than a tractor-trailer on an icy Interstate in January. Photo Credit: Reuters/Al Drago.
Before the calendar changes to February, the two leading political parties have already settled on their nominees. Never has such an early and determined result been decided. The strange occurrence of a previous president seeking to reclaim his office last occurred in 1892. The last repeat unsuccessful nominee was in 1956 when Adlai Stevenson faced Dwight Eisenhower for a second straight election. Richard Nixon lost the 1960 election as Vice President but rebounded to win in 1968. Several nominees have tried to win their party’s nod before claiming the crown. No one alive, however, has witnessed the outlier of a former president contesting the office against the sitting president, his former opponent.
For the next nine months, talking heads will argue over the pros and cons of this development. Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, will spend considerable time in court in the months ahead, campaigning against President Joe Biden, making his pitch to the American people, and holding his beloved rallies. He will also need to pick a running mate.
Narrowing the field of potential candidates seems easy at first glance but more difficult considering all the criteria. Not only should the pick have elective experience, but he or she should be seasoned enough to be regarded as a suitable president. The person should bring a geographical balance to the ticket and demonstrate appeal to Independents who will likely decide this election and ones in the future.
Whether the candidate must be ethnic or gender-specific depends on how the Trump team reads the electorate. Moral and legal uprightness would balance some of Trump’s historical failings and his present troubles. Finally, Trump must be comfortable with his selection. In short, the nominee must be 60 or younger, an office holder, temperamentally suited, principled, incorruptible, and from a state other than Florida, preferably a swing state. Trump’s choices are few, but using this as a base, let’s consider the GOP bench.
Of the group that ran for the nomination, Ron DeSantis measures up, but he is from Florida, and Trump holds him in contempt for daring to challenge him. Nikki Haley hits many indicators, but Trump distrusts her and prefers someone more loyal to the MAGA crowd. Doug Burgum, Governor of North Dakota, may get the nod for Secretary of Agriculture, but he will not be the Vice President. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will be lucky if they are allowed to keep their membership in the Republican Party, never mind being Vice President.
That leaves Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Governor Tim Scott. When Ramaswamy pulled out of the race after the Iowa caucuses and endorsed Trump, the Donald had a lot of nice things to say about the young man of Indian heritage. Trump may even see him as a successor one day, but as of 2024, Vivek is inexperienced, has no elective background, and seems headed for stardom on Fox News.
That leaves Tim Scott, the African American senator from South Carolina who also recently endorsed Trump before his nomination became unanimous. Scott checks most of the boxes, and Trump likes him. He did not soar as a candidate, but given the right platform, he might blossom. Scott would not moot the dominant media’s chatter about racism, authoritarianism, fascism, or Hitler as much as one might think, but he would reduce it. Now, a look at those who did not run.
From what one makes of an Axios report just after Trump’s victory in Iowa, Trump has already pared down his list to three: Haley, Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Representative Elise Stefanik of New York. I doubt that Trump will not consider others, but we know Nikki Haley and Donald Trump have poured cold water on the notion that Haley would serve on the national ticket.
As for J. D. Vance, he belongs in the MAGA world, but he started from a different place. When Vance wrote Hillbilly Elegy, he made a robust defence of the meritocracy. Over the years, including his political career, he has, according to Ben Shapiro, become more grievance-oriented, an outspoken Trump defender who sounds like a National Conservative. Comfortable with entitlement spending but less with foreign aid, he brings little to Trump because Ohio looks solid Red.
As for Stefanik, she speaks well, but her Heritage Action score (the conservative grassroots organization with an army of sentinels and the leading conservative scorecard, whose sister organization is the Heritage Foundation) stands at 72 per cent, and her lifetime score at 54 per cent. These scores leave her well left of most GOP members of Congress.
If Trump hopes to appease the evangelical wing, her appointment will not do it. If he wants a political moderate who reflects his thinking, enjoys flexibility on budgetary issues, and gives him a shot at winning New York, he may lean her way. Mark Halperin’s Wide World of News brought a dark horse possibility to light this weekend.
“I made the case that Donald Trump will ultimately pick Alabama Senator Katie Britt as his running mate if he is the nominee,” Halperin reported in his newsletter on January 21st. According to the former ABC News Director and commentator on Newsmax TV, the response to this suggestion has been universally positive from Trump supporters and detractors. For a full report on what several officials said, read Halperin’s report at his Substack site here.
Trump could do worse than Britt, Vance or Stefanik. Picking former Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake or North Dakota Governor Kirsti Noem would be an unforgivable lack of political judgment. Lake would ignite the stolen election theme and mire Trump back in 2020. No one needs that. Noem’s personal life appears to be a mess. Trump does not want more scandal, sexcapades, or distractions on the campaign trail.
Tucker Carlson’s name often surfaces in these discussions, but he serves as a lightning rod more than as a political animal. Tucker would bring the campaign communication skills, intelligence, and a well-established following. Unfortunately, his spurious claims are unhelpful, and he has flirted with the national conservatives. He has no elective office experience, and no evidence exists that he could help Trump win any area or group of voters.
Trump will likely not wait until the convention to make his choice. In a year where all the suspense has disappeared from the campaign, the former president’s vice-presidential pick will hold the drama in the electoral side of a contest that will go sideways more times than a tractor-trailer on an icy Interstate in January.
Dave Redekop is a retired elementary resource teacher who now works part-time at the St. Catharines Courthouse as a Registrar. He has worked on political campaigns since high school and attended university in South Carolina for five years, where he earned a Master’s in American History with a specialization in Civil Rights. Dave loves reading biographies.