Ranking Trump’s potentially very short VP shortlist

By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill – April 6, 2023

A suspension of disbelief is required to rank the names most likely to appear on Donald J. Trump’s vice presidential shortlist. “Disbelief” for the following reasons:

Twice-impeached former President Trump, who lost his 2020 reelection bid and was recently indicted on 34 felony charges, is currently the runaway leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Also, consider that Trump twice lost the popular vote and in 2016 won the Electoral College by only fractional percentages in three states. Then ask yourself, is this America or a fictional movie script?

Nonetheless, if Trump were to reoccupy the White House, he would be a lame-duck president thanks to the 22nd Amendment’s two-term limit.

Furthermore, if Trump wins the GOP nomination and general election, his vice president would likely become the party’s heir apparent and 2028 front runner. But if Trump is defeated a second time, his running mate – after garnering national name identification and valuable campaign experience – could still lead the 2028 primary pack (unless his running mate bombs out on the national stage).

If (big if) Trump tops the GOP ticket, the following six factors will influence his running mate selection process, impacting whom I rank as the top two prospects.

1. Trump’s running mate must display (blind) loyalty — no exceptions.

The loyalty must hold even if Trump again calls for terminating the Constitution. Shortlist candidates might study former VP Mike Pence’s never-to-be-written guide, which could be appropriately titled as “Puppet Playbook — The Art of Blind Loyalty.” They would learn how Pence executed all his loyalty plays until well after the November 2020 election.

During his four-year term, Trump reigned over Pence’s uber-loyal and consistent head nodding. Thus, Trump will expect no less from a new number two. Among the skills that Trump’s prospective VP candidates must bring to the job is smiling while lip-biting.

2. Running mate must never outshine the media master  

Unlikely to be a problem since Trump will only select someone he thinks the media is less interested in covering. But if Trump miscalculates on that assumption, his running mate will face his wrath.

3. The “defending Trump” factor

Already in full motion, Trump is watching where, when and with how much vigor prospective running mates are speaking, acting out and defending him after his first (and unlikely last) indictment. So expect the “Defending Trump” factor to become his number one selection criterion if or when indictments mount.

4. Trump will select someone who wants the VP nomination, but not too much.

In February, Trump discussed his future running mate and said, “A lot of people are right now auditioning.” Translation: Trump is closely watching and grading how prospective VP candidates look and act on television and social media platforms.

5. What constituencies/demographic groups/gender does the potential VP nominee attract to enhance the ticket?

Although this question relates to every presidential nominee, Trump’s ticket enhancement intentions are on steroids since his fruitful 2016 running mate selection experience. After Trump tapped then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, millions of evangelical voters turned out to the polls. Recall that in 2016 Pence (a respected, experienced federal and state-elected official) was also perceived by Republican voters as a moderating influence on Trump’s wild impulses and political inexperience. Again, Trump needs someone of that ilk if the indicted former president wins the nomination or White House.

6. Female running mate

Women comprised 52 percent of the 2020 electorate. Joe Biden won 57 percent of them to Trump’s 42 percent. Given Trump’s misogynist reputation, in 2024, he may be more inclined to select a female running mate. Chances are Vice President Kamala Harris will remain on Biden’s ticket, which is more reason for Trump to choose a woman.

Trump’s first choice could be Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). She chairs the House Republican Conference, making her the third most powerful House Republican. Furthermore, Stefanik checks every previously mentioned criterion with double checks for loyalty. For example, on Nov. 11, 2022, four days BEFORE Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign, Stefanik endorsed Trump’s candidacy.

If Trump chose Stefanik, he would never worry about her outshining him in the media since she does not overtly seek media attention. Stefanik is young (born in 1984), intelligent (a Harvard graduate) and Catholic. Stefanik might provide some moderating balance reminiscent of Pence.

 Regarding the “Defending Trump” factor, Stefanik earns triple checkmarks. Recently, she expressed outrage sprinkled with familiar phrases pleasing to Trump’s ear, calling his indictment “a political witch-hunt and a dark day for America.” She said, “..save our great republic by electing President Donald J. Trump in 2024.” (Practicing for the campaign trail?)

Trump’s second choice could be Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) Greene is in some ways the polar opposite of Stefanik. Trump’s campaign would constantly worry about her statements and antics deflecting attention from Trump. Greene is unpredictable, has no filter and does not expand Trump’s voter base. She is a female version of Trump, addicted to attention, adhering to his celebrity/political philosophy: chaos equals media attention earning fundraising millions equals Republican Party power. Greene will likely remain Trump’s gold star surrogate but not his running mate.

If Trump is the 2024 nominee, my bet in April 2023 is Trump/Stefanik.


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