Trump’s Vice President? Some in the GOP are already jockeying for consideration

Trips to Mar-a-Lago. Brilliant speeches. Front row seats to major events.

The first Republican primary is nearly a year away, and the field of candidates is volatile. But already, another shadowy contest is underway with several Republicans openly jockeying to position themselves as a running mate against Donald Trump, the front-runner for the nomination.

“A lot of people are auditioning right now,” Trump told supporters in Florida last month.

Simply mentioning a running mate so early in the process is a departure from the traditional schedule of presidential primaries, where candidates typically spend the first months of a campaign introducing themselves to voters and sharing their visions for the country. But as a former president, Trump needs no introduction and is eager to project an air of inevitability around his campaign, particularly as attention grows around Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis, widely seen as the toughest potential challenger. of in the GOP.

Trump campaign officials insist that investigating the vice president is not something they have actively discussed.

“We appreciate any support for President Trump, but the clear focus is on making sure he wins the Republican nomination and is able to win the general election in 2024,” said Jason Miller, a longtime Trump adviser.

That, however, hasn’t stopped some potential candidates from taking full advantage of opportunities to be close to Trump, his club and events. The dynamic was on full display earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where a trio of women who have been mentioned as possible candidates sat in the audience to cheer on Trump’s headline speech.

They were Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Elise Stefanik of New York and Kari Lake, the news anchor turned failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate who ended her remarks at a keynote dinner by kissing a portrait of Trump placed on stage. .

While Trump, according to people who have spoken to him, is in no rush to make a decision and understands he needs to let the nomination process unfold, he has talked about possible options long before he formally announced his candidacy last fall. . In these talks, he has shown his interest in choosing a woman this time.

But allies say Trump is looking, first and foremost, for someone who will be unabashedly loyal after feeling burned by former Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In 2016, running as a celebrity businessman with no political experience, Trump chose a person who was, in many ways, his opposite, choosing the Indiana governor and former congressman who could strengthen his position among conservatives and religious right.

Trump, this time, is looking for someone more like himself, said Michael Caputo, a longtime friend and adviser who believes Stefanik would be Trump’s best choice.

“I think the president learned a lot from his experience with Pence,” he said. “I think this time Trump will be looking for someone cut from the same cloth that he is, not a different, complementary cloth.”

While Trump is looking for someone with star power, he has also signaled that he is reluctant to pick someone who could overshadow him in the race.

Among those seen as most eager for the job is Lake, who is popular with Trump’s MAGA base and won — and subsequently promoted — a CPAC poll asking members of the public who they would like to see as the Republican vice presidential nominee . She is seen as staunchly loyal to the former president, but critics note that she lost her only race and continues to dispute the results, which will draw attention to Trump’s own electoral failures and heighten criticism that he is too focused on the past.

“I am 100 percent committed to serving as Governor of Arizona,” Lake said in a statement. “I will also work to make sure President Trump returns to the White House as soon as possible. Anything outside of those two goals is nothing but a distraction.”

A person close to Lake said she has not had formal discussions about the role as she currently prepares for a possible Senate run. But the person, who like others requested anonymity to discuss the private conversations, also said Lake is unduly pro-Trump and would likely do whatever he asked.

Green, the flame-throwing congresswoman who recently proposed a “national divorce” between red and blue states, is also seen as eager for the role. He was a fixture at Trump’s midterm rallies, often speaking during the pre-show program, and was a frequent visitor to Florida, including dining with Lake at a local restaurant, Rocco’s Tacos, on Valentine’s Day.

“She sees herself on the short list for Trump’s running mate. To paraphrase Cokie Roberts, when MTG looks in the mirror, he sees a potential president smiling,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who often hosts Greene on his podcast, told NBC, referring to the late political reporter.

When asked recently about her vice presidential aspirations, Greene told reporters, “That’s up to President Trump who he chooses.”

Stefanik is also frequently mentioned as a possible candidate, but has taken what allies describe as a more nuanced approach. He endorsed Trump before he even announced he was running and became one of his chief defenders on the Hill. During CPAC, Stefanik used her speech to call for Trump’s re-election and introduced him at a private event hosted by his super PAC. Trump, in turn, praised her as a “rocket ship.”

People close to Stefanik say that instead of openly running for office, she is focused on doing her job as chair of the GOP convention and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, believing that if she does well, good things will follow. But she has the support of several Trump allies, who see her as disciplined and less dangerous than other potential choices, and also point to her record of winning swing, suburban districts.

Stefanik, in an interview, said she had not discussed the position with Trump, although she had previously said she would be honored to serve in his administration.

“We have a lot of work to do in the next two years, and I will work no matter what to make sure we have a Republican president, House and Senate in 2024,” he said. and it’s a big job.”

Trump also discussed other potential candidates, including his former ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who has been reluctant to criticize the former president since she launched her bid. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who would be the first black man on the Republican presidential ticket, is seen as another possible choice.

Allies say both are serious about running for president in their own right, not with hopes of serving as vice president or in another Cabinet position, though many believe Haley, in particular, would be open to a bid .

Also mentioned as possible candidates: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who is considering her own presidential bid; Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a supporter of the former president in 2016 and 2020. and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who appeared at the former president’s side as he visited the state on Monday.

“We’re going to have a lot of great choices for vice president. We’re going to pick a great one,” Trump said during his Iowa caucuses.


Associated Press writers Michelle L. Price and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.

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