Have you stopped lately to contemplate the ramifications of a Doug Burgum presidency, or the environmental policies of a prospective Francis Suarez administration, or the tax policies likely to be implemented by a President Asa Hutchinson? Raise your hand if you think Will Hurd, or maybe Corey Stapleton, should start measuring the drapes in the White House. Who are these people, you say? Well, they are actual, though virtually unknown, entries in a field of aspirants that have almost inexplicably swelled to a baker’s dozen. That’s right, 13 recognized candidates are now vying for the Republican presidential nomination – even though Donald Trump is lapping the field to a point that, if this was an amateur sports contest, the mercy rule might well be invoked.
So, with the twice-indicted Trump still towering over the rest of the competitors as he heads to New Hampshire for a campaign event Tuesday, while the leading challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also campaigns in the Granite State, why exactly are so many candidates jumping into a race they are all but certain to lose? The answer – beyond the usual prestige, book deals, and seeing their name in lights for a minute – is that many of them fancy themselves as the ideal running mate for Trump, and are using the primary to actively audition for the role. It is not dissimilar to a beauty pageant where the contestants parade before the judges, hoping for their approval. In this case, it looks like they are playing to an audience of one: the 45th president.
Who Is the Ideal Republican VP?
Any of the five announced persons of color could potentially strengthen Trump’s appeal to minorities: soft-spoken Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC); outspoken radio host Larry Elder; thought leader and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who might also bring added appeal to those women voters who dumped Trump in 2020; and handsome young Francis Suarez, mayor of Miami, who would ideally connect Trump more effectively to Hispanics – and has reportedly been recommended as a running mate by some of Trump’s advisors. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum or Former Montana Secretary of State – and aspiring country singer – Corey Stapleton would stand to play well in the west.
Two former governors, Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, can be excluded from the list of VP hopefuls – along with Mike Pence, for obvious reasons – because of their outspoken opposition to Trump. In Christie’s case, he has essentially declared that he’s in the race specifically to upend the 45th president, like the “paid assassin” role he played in sinking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in 2016. Of course, DeSantis has been prominently mentioned as a possible running mate for Trump, but he was once widely viewed as a serious contender for the nomination itself, and may still be even as his polling numbers remain flatlined at some 30 points behind the former president, but still well ahead of any other candidate not named Trump.
The entry of all these longshots or no-shots auditioning for the GOP ticket is not without consequences. With each successive vanity candidate who enters the fray, Trump’s chances of victory only improve. A dozen candidates, instead of, say two or three, splitting up the leftovers remaining after the more than 50% who are solid for Trump makes anyone else’s path to the nomination all but impossible, absent a dramatic turnaround. And considering the left has thrown the kitchen sink at Trump with endless investigations, impeachments, and indictments, it’s difficult to envision anything at this point that would surprise, shock, or change any Republican’s mind about the most famous, and most investigated, person in the world.
In one sense, the supersized field makes this primary feel like a repeat of 2016, when 19 candidates, including the longshot Trump, battled for the nomination. But in another sense, it is dissimilar: while Trump will again benefit from a large field, few if any of the 2016 candidates were looking for anything but the presidential nomination. For 2024, it is becoming clear that most of them are actually after something else.
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