Who will be the Republican candidate for vice president? Trump is in no hurry to decide

Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Doug Burgum are the favorites. The running mate he picks may help him win over women, young people or voters in swing states

Tim Scott, Tulsi Gabbard, Marco Rubio, Elise Stefanik, Doug Burgum, Vivek Ramaswamy
Tim Scott, Tulsi Gabbard, Marco Rubio, Elise Stefanik, Doug Burgum and Vivek Ramaswamy, some of the possible VP candidates.GETTY / AP
Iker Seisdedos

Last Wednesday, one of the most pressing enigmas of the upcoming U.S. elections was clarified: Donald Trump and Joe Biden agreed to a debate, but they will disobey the rules of previous campaigns. There will be two debates: the first will be held sooner than ever, in June, and the second, in September. The organization of both will be carried out by private television networks, CNN and ABC, respectively. The candidates also picked up the gauntlet of Fox News; the most watched cable news station will have to settle for hosting a debate between the vice presidential candidates. So everything is in order, except for one small detail: who will face the Democratic candidate, Biden’s second-in-command, Kamala Harris, on the Republican side?

Trump does not seem to be in a hurry to answer who will be his running mate. It’s a question that’s been circulating since the former president became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee in February after sweeping (once again) the South Carolina primary. No one has won an election thanks to their running mate, but a good decision always helps, and in the best of cases, can mitigate voters’ reservations with the presidential candidate.

It is a matter of choosing a candidate who can win over key electorates, such as women, minority groups, Black and Latino communities, and young voters. A politician’s style may be another factor (for example, a more conservative style to balance Trump’s fiery diatribes). And there are geographical factors to consider too: as the U.S. election tends to be decided by a handful of swing states, choosing a running mate who is well known in one of them can be decisive.

In the Trump veepstakes, there are many names from a wide variety of fields: from Republicans who tried to cinch the nomination, such as Vivek Ramaswamy, the “anti-woke millennial millionaire,” to active governors and senators and to the key figures of the Magaverse. Will it be far-right House Republicans Elise Stefanik or Marjorie Taylor Greene? Or former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard? Or could it be Kari Lake, who lost the last election in Arizona; Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, or the television personality Tucker Carlson? Amid the questions, there is one certainty (at least, so far): Nikki Haley will not be chosen. Trump’s great rival in the primaries has repeatedly said that she would not accept the offer, and it remains to be seen if she will publicly endorse the Republican candidate.

Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in March.SHAWN THEW / POOL (EFE)

Among the crowded field of possible candidates, some of the least likely contenders are gaining ground while other favorites, such as the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, who caused a scandal after admitting to killing her puppy and goat, appear to have fallen by the wayside.

The most recent name to be floated is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. This year he is not up for renewal (he won comfortably in 2022), and in 2016, he dropped out of the contest to win the Republican presidential nomination (and in the process, become the first Latino to do so). As reported by the Financial Times, he is an option valued by some of Trump’s wealthiest campaign donors. If chosen, however, he will have to move: U.S. law does not allow the president and vice president to reside in the same state (Florida, in this case).

Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) speaks next to former US President Donald Trump (L)
Marco Rubio speaks at a rally in Miami in 2022, as Trump looks on.CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH (EFE)

The second name is businessman Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota. He was among the dozen candidates who ran in the Republican primary. He never had any hope of winning the nomination, nor is he very well known outside his state, but his strategic positioning this past Tuesday in a photo taken of Trump during his hush money trial in New York has led to speculation that he may be picked as Trump’s running mate.

Following the photo, The Wall Street Journal, citing sources in the party, published a profile on Burgum which examined his role in a meeting with mega-donors at the former president’s residence in Mar-a-Lago and the fact that he accompanied Trump at a recent rally in New Jersey. According to an anonymous source, Trump’s interest in Burgum comes down to three reasons: he is rich, loyal and good-looking.

A Black senator and a ‘hillbilly’ from Ohio

Burgom was not the only Republican snapped in the photo during the court recess: Ramaswamy and House Speaker Mike Johnson also supported Trump that day. The first criminal trial against a U.S. president is not only attracting tourists, it has also sparked a parade of Republican representatives and senators, who have theatrically accused the trial of being an act of “political persecution.” Another figure who has supported Trump at the courthouse is Byron Donalds, a Black representative for Florida, and two senators who have been in the veepstakes for some time: J. D. Vance (Ohio) and Tim Scott (Florida).

Vance rose to fame with his memoir, an international bestseller, about the discontent of Americans living in the rust belt — an area that overwhelmingly supports Trump. The success of Hillbilly Elegy paved the way for Vance’s political career. Along that path, he forgot his opinions about Trump, a person he once described in a message to a friend as “America’s Hitler” and ended up forging a close friendship with the former president’s firstborn son, despite their very different backgrounds (the rich kid of New York versus the poor, self-made young man from the Midwest). That relationship has apparently won him points with the former president.

President Donald Trump looks to Sen. Tim Scott
Tim Scott and Trump, in Greenville (South Carolina), on February 20.Chris Carlson (AP)

Scott, the only Black Republican senator, also competed with the magnate for the Republican nomination, but never had much hope of winning. After throwing in the towel, he swallowed Trump’s insults and scorn, and became his biggest fan: Scott has not missed an opportunity to publicly show his support for the former president.

Scott’s servility even inspired a sketch on Saturday Night Live. In the segment, James Austin Johnson, playing Trump, speaks from the other side of the barricades of the Manhattan courthouse, and talks about who will choose as vice president. Noem comes out with a gun in one hand and a stuffed puppy (“I’m kidding, it’s a fake puppy, but it’s a real gun,” she says), while Scott argues he can help Trump win the Black vote (“specifically mine,” he clarifies, “because Black people do not like me”). In the parody, Trump-Johnson finally chooses Hannibal Lecter, a fictional character that the magnate described as a “wonderful man” in a surreal moment at the aforementioned rally in New Jersey: “I hope it scares everyone at the border,” says the comic in the sketch.

Between the mass rallies and courthouse appearances, Trump appears to be enjoying the suspense, saying that he is in no rush to choose his running mate, while sending contradictory messages about what he is looking for. In 2016, in July, he opted for Mike Pence, whose religious and old-fashioned conservative profile was considered a good complement to his own volcanic personality. He made the announcement on X, formerly Twitter, a week before the Republican convention, as Biden did in 2020 with Harris. The difference between those campaigns is that both candidates secured their party’s nomination after a much longer battle in the primaries.

It’s also worth remembering how the vice presidency ended for Pence: with a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on January 6 and calling for him to be hanged for not stopping the certification of Biden’s legitimate electoral victory. This, however, has not seemed to deter Trump’s new VP candidates.

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