To suggest that the right pick for a vice presidential running mate can impact a campaign is a major understatement. The right-hand man or woman becomes next in line for the throne and often represents the United States on international trips – a duty for which presidents rarely have time – either bolstering or denigrating the nation’s international reputation. And, of course, the right pick for VP can bring electoral benefits, too.
Which brings us to the question on everyone’s lips: Who will former President Donald Trump choose as his running mate should he secure the GOP nomination?
VP Options Aplenty
The Republican primary process is not yet over, and Trump could still be derailed by an inconvenient conviction, but it is notable that pretty much no one is discussing the VP picks of his GOP rivals – almost an admission in itself that such speculation is without purpose. In fact, the other candidates themselves are also not discussing who would be on their potential tickets, either because such a confident display could jinx their campaigns, or because they don’t want to provide early ammunition, or perhaps even because they just don’t think such a choice will ever become necessary.
Trump, on the other hand, is milking the speculation for all it is worth.
During his Fox News Town hall in Iowa on January 10, he declared that he had already made his decision but that he wouldn’t be telling just yet. For those familiar with his hit TV show The Apprentice, teasing out the final name for inclusion (or disqualification) was the tense moment of the show, resulting in the now infamous “you’re fired” or “you’re hired” slogan.
This anticipatory gamesmanship is designed to build excitement, speculation, and, ultimately, newspaper headlines. All key elements of Trump’s campaign style.
When Trump chose Mike Pence for the VP slot, he was looking for someone with a good legislative track record and a cooler head to balance out his fiery disposition. Pence once described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf,” and his mantra of “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order,” brought a bevy of reluctant conservatives to the Trump cause. Regardless of how the relationship ended, he was the right choice at the time.
But that was a long time ago, and things change.
When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, he had planned on eight uninterrupted years at the helm, as such, he did not want to be overshadowed in his first term by a big personality with “star quality.” Now, however, he has a maximum of one more term available and a legacy to secure. What he needs is an attack dog who is ideologically aligned with him and not afraid of going toe-to-toe with a hostile media to advance and argue for his MAGA agenda.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley – a one-time ally of Trump – has sought to position herself as the anti-Trump. She will be eagerly trying to vacuum up the backers of ex-presidential candidate Chris Christie, despite his hot mic moment offering the opinion that “She’s gonna get smoked and you and I both know it. She’s not up to this.”
Haley as a running mate offers few benefits to Trump. She has campaigned hard and burned The Donald along the way. And although the left-leaning media willingly overlooked Kamala Harris slyly accusing Joe Biden of racism on the debate stage, and of saying she believed “some” of his female accusers regarding inappropriate contact, no such grace would be afforded to comments made by Haley on her campaign trail.
As for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, it was once thought that the pair would make a real dynamic duo – but this relationship has also soured on the road to the nomination. He certainly has a solid track record in office, and his state’s results in 2022 were one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise dark election season. But, like Haley, he has gone scorched earth on the former president in an effort to secure the nomination. Unsurprisingly, Trump hit back and his campaign has not yet recovered.
Keeping the Faith?
There are a number of non-candidates who have been floated for the position, including Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Tucker Carlson, and even former presidential candidate Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) each coming with various pros and cons. But there is one contender who seems to be waiting in the wings for the kingly nod.
Having recently liquidated $33 million to continue his presidential campaign, one might think that Vivek Ramaswamy is too committed to his own presidential prospects to consider taking the number-two spot on a Trump ticket. But then you have to consider the type of campaign he has fought so far.
Across more than 350 events in Iowa this last year, having visited each of the state’s 99 counties at least twice, he has been touting the America First message with an unapologetic style in an all-too-familiar fashion. What he hasn’t done is really increase his national polling numbers. To the outside world, this is beginning to look like a surrogate campaign.
While Trump was at his latest town hall and Haley and DeSantis traded barbs in a debate this last Wednesday, Ramaswamy was broadcasting a live campaign event alongside popular podcaster Tim Pool. The host asked him whether he would accept a spot on Trump’s ticket. Ramaswamy responded that Trump has his “full support” and that he also expects Trump’s “full support.” A politically polished non-answer that could cryptically answer everything.
The Long Game Argument
When Joe Biden was inaugurated, he lost no time in unwinding and rolling back much of the work that Donald Trump had done over his four years in office. This is certainly an angle of importance that Trump will be considering if he manages to take back the White House. Rather than try to get his agenda built up from 2025 onward and then hope that it sticks once the next president comes into power – Democrat or Republican – it makes sense for 45 to have a hand in who could continue his work.
He will be as wary of having a Democrat follow his potential next term as he is of having a Republican who does not back the America First platform. The eventual choice might not be Vivek Ramaswamy, but it will almost certainly be a loyalist who is ready to carry the Trump torch beyond 2028.