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Sep 6, 2023, 6:42am EDT
politics

The five types of potential Trump running mate

REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo
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The News

Donald Trump has been trolling his 2024 rivals for weeks with jokes about the race being an audition for his running mate. But you should take the veepstakes dead seriously, even this early. If Trump goes on to win the nomination and presidency, he’ll be limited to one term — which means whoever he picks will become the 2028 frontrunner overnight, with huge influence over the party’s future.

Needless to say, there are other special reasons to pay attention: His own former vice president is running against him after refusing to participate in an effort to overturn the election that Trump is now being indicted over. That could push him to pick a less conventional running mate he trusts not to defy his orders, or dramatically color voter perceptions of anyone outside his inner circle who gets the nod instead.

Here’s a guide to the names that have been floated by Trump himself, our sources, and news reports at this point as potential picks.

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The Names

Defeated foes

Just last week, Trump praised 38-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy and suggested “he’d be very good” as a VP pick. At the same time, Trump warned Ramaswamy to “be a little bit careful,” referencing his increasingly “controversial” remarks — which include everything from making young Americans pass a test to vote, to suggesting China can invade Taiwan once the U.S. builds enough semiconductor factories. Also on the shortlist: Nikki Haley, his former UN ambassador and an on-again/off-again critic; and Tim Scott, who Trump has explicitly told aides not to publicly attack during the primary.

Full MAGA

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If Trump wants to be 110% sure he doesn’t have another Mike Pence on his hands, he has choices. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. who has rebranded as a House GOP leadership ally, is all but openly running to join a Trump ticket. “I have a lot of things to think about,” she told the Atlanta Journal Constitution last month. “Am I going to be a part of President Trump’s cabinet if he wins? Is it possible that I’ll be VP?” Another full MAGA option would be Kari Lake, who currently looks primed for a Senate run after losing her governor’s race in 2022. The Daily Beast reported that a number of Trump advisors dislike the idea, however, fearing she would draw too much attention to herself. Some Trump aides have also said that she wouldn’t be a serious option after her 2022 loss.

Outreach plays

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa turned down a potential Trump VP slot in 2016 while dealing with a difficult divorce, but would still be an obvious option for any GOP nominee. A more surprising name that keeps popping up in news reports lately: Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C. She severely criticized Trump after Jan. 6 and often clashes with his House Freedom Caucus allies, but in recent months has done a surprising about-face, backing up his claims that his indictments are politically motivated and leaving the door open to an endorsement.

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Govs

Privately, some Trump aides have suggested the former president would be likely to pick a woman to run alongside him. There’s a strong list of governors he could choose from if that’s the route he goes: During a recent Newsmax hit, Trump floated picking South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has said she’d consider a VP slot and opted not to join the crowded Republican presidential field because she believes no one “can win as long as Trump’s in the race.” Speculation also includes Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who notably hasn’t yet endorsed Trump, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who seems like an increasingly less likely choice given Trump’s public attacks against her during the primary. Among the non-female options: During that same Newsmax interview, the former president also suggested South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early 2016 endorser who is leading Trump’s South Carolina team, could be among the choices.

Friends in Congress

Trump has a number of close allies in Congress who are frequent sources of VP chatter. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. caught Trump’s eye after he fiercely defended the former president following the CNN town hall, and high-ranking ally Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. is seen as a loyal option who won’t steal the spotlight. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who spent time downplaying VP chatter back in 2016, and critic-turned-fierce-backer J.D. Vance, R-Ohio could also be on the list this time around.

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