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Updated Jan 18, 2024, 9:37pm EST
politics

What’s really going on with all the Trump VP talk

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
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The News

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. is campaigning as a Donald Trump surrogate this week in New Hampshire — will she be Trump’s vice president? What about Nikki Haley, whom the president has asked around about in weeks past? Or maybe even Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host that Trump’s own son says is a “contender” for the coveted spot?

A week after Trump claimed in a Fox News town hall that he already knew who his vice presidential pick is going to be, and after a blowout win in Iowa that threatens to end the primaries early, speculation is once again swirling over who he might pick as a running mate. The list of potential options is long, and includes several different factions within the Republican base, from friends in Congress to full MAGA-types.

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Shelby’s view

It’s unlikely that Trump has definitely picked who he wants as his vice president, although there’s certainly a number of names floating around as serious contenders. But you can expect a whole lot more stories, even by normal presidential standards, before he settles on his choice.

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One reason: Trump is a promiscuous advice-seeker on nominations and personnel, and these conversations frequently leak. Yesterday’s NBC News story on Stefanik’s stock rising opened with Trump polling Mar-a-Lago members on his options over a candlelit dinner last month.

“He asks questions about everyone, like everyone under the sun,” one Trump aide said. “It’s not strange or surprising for him to ask someone, ‘what do you think about so-and-so? Do you think so-and-so is doing a good job?’ And some people might interpret that as, ‘Oh my god, he’s asking about VP.’”

Another factor: Trump loves a show — and is content to drop “hints” while sitting back and watching VP-hopefuls contend for the prize, just as he did in 2016. This time around seems to be no different, with Trump himself floating multiple names and stirring the pot with declarations that his own aides sometimes clarify might not quite match up to what they’ve heard thus far.

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Partly for this reason, potential veeps are eager to get their names in the mix, with some openly discussing the job already. Knowing the president closely monitors the media conversation around them creates an incentive for them or their supporters to make sure their name stays in cable news roundtables, especially if another name is gaining buzz.

“One day Trump is doing a speech with Vivek, and then there’s a lot of rumors about Vivek being the VP pick, so you get a bunch of these other stories trying to counter that,” the same Trump aide said. “One day you see stories about Doug Burgum being up on stage in Iowa with Trump, and then people get sensitive about that. It’s a bunch of people just being sensitive about everything. It’s high school drama all over again.”

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The View From The 2024 GOP Field

Ron DeSantis accused Haley of “running to be Trump’s VP” this week, a recurring insult passed between various candidates throughout the race. Trump’s frontrunner status — and the general reluctance in the field to attack him for most of the race — has made it an easy cheap shot, especially with Trump mockingly encouraging the idea the debates he’s boycotted have been a VP audition.

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For what it’s worth, I’m doubtful (although, particularly with Trump, the phrase “never say never” applies) that Haley would end up being the last woman standing for a vice presidential pick: First, there’s strong opposition among some of Trump’s closest confidants, both because of her perceived “disloyalty” running against him and her stance on issues like Ukraine and entitlement spending that have fallen out of favor in MAGA circles. Second: While aides and allies have repeatedly suggested Trump is likely to end up picking a woman, it would be difficult for Trump and his team to put back in the box the attacks they’ve lobbed at her in recent weeks.

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Notable

  • Politico’s Jonathan Martin detailed some of the drama playing out behind the scenes over the idea that Haley could be in the running for the second-place spot: “Haley’s critics have even privately warned Trump that, were he to make Haley first in line to the presidency, he’d effectively be setting himself up for an intra-party coup, as GOP senators would use any legal or political pretext to remove him from office and elevate the more old guard-aligned Haley.”
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