Trump’s VP Search Is Different This Time

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By killing her dog, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem may have also killed her chances of becoming Donald Trump’s vice president. So who else is on the list? We’ll get into Trump’s options after four new stories from The Atlantic:


Trump’s Big Decision

As a reporter, it is my duty to remind you that Trump’s team loves messing with the media almost as much as it loves jockeying for influence with the big man himself. Trump’s advisers might dish, for example, that after careful consideration, so-and-so is off the vice-president list, and you know who is back on. They might explain that, actually, some of the usual considerations of geography and gender aren’t playing a role in this VP decision.

But the truth is, none of these supposed insiders really knows much. No one has any idea what Trump is thinking, except for Trump himself. And the former president is quite famously unpredictable, with a well-established tendency to make decisions based on his most recent conversation. Predicting his Veep pick, then, is a bit futile. It’s also really early: Candidates don’t typically choose a running mate until around the party convention, in late summer. And Trump will likely try to milk as much media coverage as he can out of making people wait.

Still, without prognosticating too much, we can anticipate what Trump is probably looking for in a vice president. He’ll want someone who looks good on television but not someone who might outshine him. Someone who isn’t polarizing to the MAGA base but who demonstrates range. He’ll choose a candidate with experience, or at least with some record of being a winner. He is probably not looking for a politician to “balance” out his ticket like Mike Pence did in 2016, when Trump desperately needed to win over evangelicals.

Above all, of course, Trump will want someone unfailingly loyal to him. This time around, it’s not about logic or persuasion—it’s about personality. The Republican strategists Doug Heye and Mike Murphy, neither of whom are involved with the Trump campaign, walked me through some of Trump’s VP options.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott

Why does this name keep floating around? Well, the senator, who’s been in office for more than a decade, has always been popular. He’s a former insurance salesman who knows how to schmooze, and, Heye told me, he’s also a “prodigious fundraiser.” Scott never fully cozied up to Trump while the latter was president, but he didn’t criticize him much either. “He played it smart,” Murphy told me, by not getting too close or too far. The dynamic changed when Scott launched his own presidential campaign last year. “He was the puppy on his back, supplicant,” even while he was running against Trump, Murphy said, and that loyalty “will appeal to Trump.”

Scott could also—the thinking goes—help Trump appeal to Black voters, who have already started peeling off from Democrats, albeit in a small way. Trump and his campaign have seemed obsessed with this task as they try to avoid a repeat of 2020, and Scott could help them do it.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Trump’s former press secretary was on even the earliest iterations of his 2024 VP shortlist. She is in her first term as a state governor and has enacted plenty of MAGA-style legislation. She’s smart and spent two years working for Trump, which means that she’s familiar with handling the D.C. media and that Trump is probably pretty comfortable with her. Having a woman like Sanders on the ticket could help Trump pick up women voters, another demographic he’s struggled with. “She’s never going to have any agenda or not be the completely loyal type,” Murphy said. “And [she’s] less of a star, so no worry of [Trump] being diminished at all.”

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum

Burgum has been governor for eight years and seems well liked. He’s personally wealthy, like Trump, but not famous. He’s ambitious, but not in a way that intimidates Trump. He ran for president this cycle too, remember? If you don’t, that’s probably a plus for Trump.

When you pick a vice president, you should “pick a slightly less impressive version of yourself,” Murphy told me—like when Bill Clinton picked Al Gore, another moderate, Protestant white man. “When you’re John McCain, [if] you pick a Sarah Palin, it’s just trouble,” he said. Could Burgum be that slightly less impressive version of Trump?

New York Representative Elise Stefanik

This 39-year-old House Republican has been openly auditioning for the VP slot for years now. She’s a gifted fundraiser and easily the most powerful Republican in New York. She has establishment bona fides—Harvard, the George W. Bush White House, aide to Paul Ryan—but has devoted herself entirely to Trump’s defense and the MAGA cause. She’s a competent woman who could help Trump appeal to other educated women. The problem, of course, is that he may not find her particularly authentic. “She’d poison her mother to get two points on Election Day,” Murphy said. “And I think he would smell that.”

Ohio Senator J. D. Vance

The Hillbilly Elegy author and former venture capitalist seems to share Trump’s populist sensibilities. Vance was once a Trump critic but changed his tune when he ran for the Senate. He’s ambitious in a way that Trump might read as disingenuous—probably because it is. “If I were Trump, I’d be troubled by the fact that J. D. Vance was calling [Republican strategists] to ask about running as an anti-Trump Republican when he first looked at running statewide in Ohio,” Murphy said. Then again, he said, “Vance is a clever-enough chameleon to be able to suck up to Trump with skill.”

Former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson

Carson, a former neurosurgeon, ran for president against Trump back in 2016. He worked in the administration for a while, heading up HUD. We haven’t heard much from him since then, but he does seem to hang out in Trump’s circles, and has been spotted at Mar-a-Lago on more than one occasion.

Carson could, in theory, help Trump appeal to Black voters. But he doesn’t have quite the political credentials that Scott does. “I was meeting a friend for drinks back in February, and he said he knows for a fact that it’s going to be Ben Carson,” Heye told me. “I’m like, ‘Okay, well, one, it’s February. Two, why Ben Carson?’”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Rubio is young and telegenic, with two terms in the Senate (plus a failed presidential campaign) under his belt. The son of Cuban immigrants, he could theoretically help Trump appeal to Latino voters. The problem is, Rubio would have to resign from the Senate. He’d also have to change his residence, because the Constitution bars electors from voting for a president and a vice president from the same state. Trump picking Rubio is “completely far-fetched—with the caveat that when you’re dealing with Donald Trump, far-fetched things happen,” Heye said.

Kari Lake

The Arizona TV anchor turned Stop the Steal devotee would clearly love to serve as Trump’s vice president. (See her here, vacuuming a red carpet for the former president.) But Lake has never actually won a race, and Trump, as we all know, prefers a winner.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem

She’s still on the list, because in Trumpworld anything is possible. But shooting a dog in a gravel pit? It’s about the worst thing you can do for your political career.

Related:


Today’s News

  1. The Justice Department announced that Texas Representative Henry Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, have been indicted on bribery and money-laundering charges. In a statement, Cuellar said that he and his wife are innocent of the charges.
  2. The former White House official Hope Hicks, who once was one of Donald Trump’s closest advisers, testified at Trump’s hush-money criminal trial.
  3. Canadian police arrested three people tied to last year’s killing of a prominent Sikh separatist in British Columbia, and are continuing to investigate allegations that the individuals were hired by the Indian government.

Dispatches

  • The Books Briefing: Poetry is an act of hope, Maya Chung writes. It can help us come closest to capturing events that exist beyond our capacity to describe them.
  • Atlantic Intelligence: New consumer gadgets are coming out, and their entire selling point revolves around artificial intelligence, Damon Beres writes. The broken-gadget era is upon us.

Explore all of our newsletters here.


Evening Read

Illustration of horses wandering around a field near an empty podium
Illustration by Matteo Giuseppe Pani. Source: Getty.

Racehorses Have No Idea What’s Going On

By Haley Weiss

This weekend, more than 150,000 pastel-wrapped spectators and bettors will descend upon Louisville’s Churchill Downs complex to watch one of America’s greatest competitive spectacles. The 150th running of the Kentucky Derby, headlined by animals whose names (Resilience, Stronghold, Catching Freedom) sound more like Taylor Swift bonus tracks than living creatures, is expected to bring more revenue to the city and venue than ever, with resale tickets reportedly at record highs. If you count TV spectators, nearly 16 million people are expected to tune in to an event that awards major titles to athletes who may not know they’ve won and cannot be interviewed.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic


Culture Break

Director Jane Schoenbrun sits at a table
Michael Buckner / Deadline via Contour RA by Getty

Watch. I Saw the TV Glow (out now in theaters), the unsettling new film directed by Jane Schoenbrun. They’ve got some ideas about how to make a genuinely weird mainstream movie.

Read. “Noon,” a poem by Li-Young Lee:

“The tall curtains billow / with presences coming and going, impossible / to confirm.”

Play our daily crossword.


P.S.

As a 30-year-old city dweller with a dog and no kids, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the role of friendship in my life. Making friends feels harder when you’re an adult—your days are suddenly so full of commitments, and interesting new people aren’t standing right in front of you at recess. Worse, at least in a place like D.C., where I live, friends tend to come and go with the seasons: They get new jobs, leave for grad school, have babies. I’m curious to hear from readers who’ve figured it out: What’s your best advice for making new friends as an adult? And what are your tips for keeping in touch with the old ones, as you all move along in life?

— Elaine


Stephanie Bai contributed to this newsletter.

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