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Larry Donnelly Who will Trump pick as his running mate?

Our columnist looks at the names in the mix and the three favourites to become Trump’s running mate this year.

EVEN AS HE struggles to come up with the roughly $450 million he needs to pay the state of New York in the wake of a colossal civil judgment against him, Donald Trump’s lock on the support of the Republican Party faithful is as secure as ever.

He has clinched the presidential nomination and holds a narrow – yet commanding in the Electoral College system – lead over the incumbent, Joe Biden, in the polls in nearly all of the battlegrounds that will determine the result in November.

Attention will soon turn to the question of whom Trump will select to be his number two. As noted in this space previously, and following on from what he would regard as the great betrayal of then-Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to do his bidding and subvert American democracy on January 6th, he will be looking for someone who is unwaveringly, unthinkingly loyal and subservient, no matter what.

Choosing a running mate

So, who will he opt for? First, at the risk of being spectacularly off the mark – something easily done when attempting to forecast what Donald Trump might or might not do – there are several people who have been floated as possibilities, but who probably will not make the cut.

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It won’t be the best person, politically and otherwise, for the job, Nikki Haley. The daughter of Indian immigrants got under Trump’s skin during the primaries and his disciples hate her. Moreover, while bringing them up precipitates hilarious conversation and they could provide entertainment of the car crash variety for the rest of the year, he will not go for Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene or the failed Arizona gubernatorial hopeful and current US Senate aspirant Kari Lake. Bluntly, they are just way out there.

Two African Americans, ex-cabinet secretary Ben Carson and Florida Congressman Byron Donalds, have been mooted, too. Both lack name recognition and Carson is 72. US Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is the same age. His former rival for the GOP nomination, wealthy entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, is loved by the MAGA crowd and Trump evidently has good time for him. That said, his appeal is limited.

The youngest Republican female ever elected to the US Senate, 42-year-old Alabamian Katie Britt, was touted by some pundits as a rising star. Her catastrophic, relentlessly lampooned response to President Biden’s recent, relatively robust State of the Union address has likely put paid to her chances, however.

sen-katie-britt-speaks-as-she-visits-singin-river-live-monday-march-18-2024-in-florence-ala-dan-busey-the-timesdaily-via-ap Katie Britt. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was press secretary to the 45th POTUS and has maintained a friendship with her prior boss, seems ideal. But it’s not an unsafe bet that she would reject an offer if it were made as she forges her own career.

former-hawaii-congresswoman-tulsi-gabbard-delivers-remarks-during-the-conservative-political-action-conference-cpac-at-the-gaylord-national-resort-and-convention-center-in-national-harbor-md-feb Tulsi Gabbard. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Lastly, perhaps the most intriguing suggestion has been Tulsi Gabbard. She served Hawaii in the US House of Representatives for four terms as a Democrat. She has moved steadily rightward since. In so doing, she has adopted fringe stances on American foreign policy and vaccines that would be seized upon by the media and would be a detrimental distraction from day one. Further, her track record of left-leaning votes in the House raises the hackles of plenty of Trump allies.

The favourites

In my estimation, that leaves a pool of three strong candidates. Allowing again for his unpredictability, as well as the reality that conditions can change pretty fast in politics, I suspect Donald Trump will eventually choose one of them. They are South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. Let’s briefly consider their pros and cons.

MixCollage-22-Mar-2024-08-12-AM-6569 New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Governor Kristi Noem, and US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Elise Stefanik was initially a moderate-ish Republican when first elected at the tender age of 30 in 2014. She has moved unabashedly in Trump’s direction and is reportedly close to him. A Harvard graduate, she was vociferous in her criticism of Ivy League university heads at a public hearing on antisemitism on their campuses. A working mother and an ethnic Catholic, she could help Trump with both vital demographics.

On the flip side, Stefanik has her share of enemies. She can’t deliver her home state. And having another New Yorker on the ticket could alienate some in Middle America.

A proud Black right-winger, Tim Scott has a compelling story, as one of two children raised by a single mother in challenging circumstances. He surmounted academic difficulties, succeeded in the insurance industry and climbed the ladder of elective offices. An evangelical Christian, Scott courted them with little luck in his pursuit of the presidency, which he abandoned in 2023 before any ballots were cast. He has remedied one of his deficits in their eyes by getting engaged to Mindy Noce in January.

Scott has morphed into a staunch backer of Trump and is completely sycophantic in his praise of the man as he, quite transparently, seeks the nod to be the running mate. His hero worship might be embarrassing to those who witness it; the incessant, OTT adoration is music to the ears of the quintessential egotist, though.

Kristi Noem is a very attractive woman and a beauty pageant winner with experience in business, as a local and federal legislator and as her state’s chief executive officer. Her physical appearance is sadly relevant because it undeniably enhances her prospects, in light of Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed predilections. Married with three children, she could also bolster Trump’s standing with suburban white women. A sizeable swathe of them must be persuaded to temporarily forget his history of malfeasance with the opposite sex if he is to defeat Biden.

Noem’s South Dakota is sparsely populated and deep red. She won’t give any geographic advantage to the GOP. Additionally, there is the widely believed rumour that the socially conservative Christian had a lengthy extramarital affair with Corey Lewandowski, a controversial figure who was a top strategist on Trump’s 2016 campaign. That would be the source of abundant tabloid fodder and could be employed subtly and not so subtly by progressive activists to sway targeted groups of swing voters as Election Day approaches.

My guess – and that’s all it is – is that either Noem or Scott will be chosen. Each ticks the undying loyalty box. It may come down to who they are: can a woman or a Black man help Trump more?

There will be ceaseless conjecture from now until the summer when the Republican nominee has to settle on one of the aforementioned individuals, or someone not featuring on the radar screen at the moment. But he was not wrong when he opined at a February Fox News town hall meeting that “the VP choice has absolutely no impact.” In the end, this is going to be an uninspiring, ugly fight between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston lawyer, a Law Lecturer at the University of Galway and a political columnist with

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