Ranking Donald Trump’s options for vice president

By Around the Web

President Donald J. Trump and Ivanka Trump, June 13, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
President Donald J. Trump and Ivanka Trump, June 13, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Wire.]

By Sean Trende
Real Clear Wire

Playing the Veepstakes guessing game is often a losing one for analysts. Vice-presidential selection is ultimately a highly personal choice, and it is simply too difficult to venture into the mind of one individual and mimic their thought process. Perhaps more importantly, Republican presidential nominees haven’t made the obvious choice for vice president since Ronald Reagan chose George Bush in 1980. Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, and even Mike Pence were all somewhat “out-of-left-field” selections for their respective presidential candidates.

It is tempting to say that the journey into the mind of a presidential candidate is particularly likely to become a failed venture when that candidate is Donald Trump. This doesn’t give Trump enough credit. Picking Mike Pence in 2016 was, in retrospect, an inspired choice and probably helped win him the presidency. In this regard, at least, his 2016 campaign was surprisingly normal.

Nonetheless, the goal isn’t to predict who Trump’s pick will be. Instead we’ll rank the prospective candidates by who would do the most good for the Republican ticket. There are a number of potential candidates not listed here. Ben Carson, Elise Stefanik, Tom Cotton, or Ron DeSantis come to mind (and Kristi Noem until about three weeks ago), and Trump really could pick someone completely out of the blue. But let’s look at the potential running mates who have gotten the most buzz of late:

10. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. First, Haley certainly isn’t showing much interest in the job. A vice-presidential candidate should, at a minimum, have endorsed the presidential candidate. There’s a universe where this is the Republican dream ticket, but relations between Haley and Trump have deteriorated so much that Trump risks looking weak or desperate were he to pick her. Probably a net negative at this point.

Nikki Haley (Video screenshot)
Nikki Haley

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9. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders’ pros are threefold: She is a female governor, she served in the Trump administration, and she is supportive of Trump. Beyond that, she brings little to the table.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Video screenshot)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders

8. Sen. J.D. Vance, Ohio. Vance might have made sense for Trump’s 2016 campaign, when he was trying to build a coalition by tearing away blue-collar voters from Obama’s 2012 win. But if Trump is trying to shore up the blue-collar vote in 2024, he’s in trouble. He needs to make gains elsewhere. Also Vance’s 2022 win in Ohio was fairly unimpressive, so even if he needs to win by those voters for some reason, it isn’t clear that Vance is the ticket.

U.S. Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio (Video screenshot)
U.S. Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio

7. Former Hawai’i Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. This is one I go back and forth on. Ultimately, I think Gabbard probably has too many liberal votes dating from her almost-decade in Congress. Check out her scorecard from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, for one. That didn’t stop George H.W. Bush from being chosen in 1980, but this isn’t 1980 anymore. She’s an outside-the-box pick for a campaign that, at least right now, doesn’t have to think outside the box.

Tulsi Gabbard (Courtesy)
Tulsi Gabbard

6. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. On paper, Scott makes sense. Trump is hoping to add non-white voters to his coalition, and the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction seems like he would not hurt. But Scott underwhelmed in the debates and lacks the executive experience that some of the other possibilities bring to the table.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., delivers the Republican response to President Joe Biden's address to Congress on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Video screenshot)
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

5. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Four of my top five picks are governors, and this isn’t accidental. Probably the two most important things Trump’s pick would do are: (a) reassure suburban voters that this will be a serious administration, rather than the at-times chaos-filled farrago that was Trump’s first term; and (b) give the various wings of the Republican Party confidence that when Trump leaves in 2029 he’ll leave the GOP in capable hands. Abbott has been a reasonably successful governor of the nation’s second-largest state for a decade now. His experience with the immigration issue will also help highlight a top theme of the Trump campaign for the election.

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas

4. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Reynolds is a lot like Sanders or Vance in that she doesn’t bring a lot immediately to the table, electorally speaking – as Trump is already counting on carrying Iowa, Arkansas, and Ohio, respectively. What she does bring, though, is eight years of executive experience (14 if you count her time as lieutenant governor.) It also doesn’t hurt that she’s from a state that borders the state likely to be electoral vote number 270 for one candidate or another (Wisconsin). A serious midwestern governor who could be a serious president one day, and who doesn’t turn off one faction or another of the GOP coalition, is a pretty solid veep resume.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa, delivers the Republican response to Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (Video screenshot)
Gov. Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa, delivers the Republican response to Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

3. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Yes, yes, I know. Burgum has Interior Secretary written all over him. But boring and safe worked for Trump in 2016, and for reassuring wavering GOP suburbanites that Trump is serious about governing in 2025, he could do a lot worse. Although Burgum certainly looks the part, he has a history that is to the left of what we would expect from a modern Republican candidate – but not so far to the left that it would cause some of the problems that a Tulsi Gabbard pick might cause.

Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., at the second Republican presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (Video screenshot)
Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D.

2. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Imagine Burgum, but make him a little more charismatic, and give him minor GOP celebrity status. That gives you Youngkin. If Trump is serious in believing that Virginia is in play this time around, he might add some interesting electoral math as well. If I had to make a pick about who I thought Trump would choose, this is probably who I’d come up with.

Glenn Youngkin addresses supporters in Chantilly, Virginia, upon winning the Virginia governor's race, Nov. 3, 2021. (Video screenshot)
Glenn Youngkin addresses supporters in Chantilly, Virginia, upon winning the Virginia governor’s race, Nov. 3, 2021.

1. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Yes, one of them would probably have to change his residence (c’mon, Trump owns property everywhere). Yes, there’s some bad blood from 2016 still. But Rubio makes so much sense. He takes Florida off the board (to the extent that it isn’t already) and probably ices Nevada and Arizona as well. He might put New Mexico into play. He’s reassuring to suburbanites, and beloved of anti-anti-Trump Republicans. He sounded Trumpian themes on working class woes before Trump. The only downside is the address thing, and even if neither wanted to declare residency elsewhere (much easier today than in 1789) the worst-case scenario would be that the vice-presidential election would go to the Senate, which Republicans probably control if Trump wins the presidency.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (Video screenshot)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.


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