With the GOP nomination race in full swing, and a winnowing list of candidates, Donald Trump has by far taken the lead in terms of popular support and delegates. Some GOP insiders are saying it appears all but certain that he’ll capture the nomination at the party’s convention in Cleveland in July. Whether or not this will come to pass, Trump has surely had time to consider who his potential running mate would be for Vice President.
Already, the games of speculation have begun among veteran political watchers. A number of possibilities seem likely, based on what various people have said or done in the last few months. In late February, Trump was quoted on CNN as saying he is leaning toward a “political insider,” but who knows what this really means or how true it is.
Let’s take a look at who would seem to have the best shot (and who might not) of running with Trump and helping him to win the general election in the fall, if he is indeed the GOP nominee:
With Christie recently wholeheartedly endorsing Trump, this long-running bromance that had been going on for years seems to have been rekindled. The advantages Christie brings to the table are a doubling down on Trump’s “tell it like it is” approach and the hands-on governing experience (through a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, no less) that Trump lacks.
Recently, Christie joined Trump on the campaign trail for a few days prior to Super Tuesday, so who knows if this was a dry run to see how crowds would react to the pair in tandem. The downsides, however, should be obvious to most observers: Christie comes from a state adjacent to Trump’s, so there would be no regional advantage to their combined appeal.
Usually, running mates are chosen partially on the merit of being able to attract voters from a region where the primary candidate is weak (see: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson or John Kerry and John Edwards). Christie also had a poor showing in the states he competed in, finishing nearly last out of all the GOP candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Even though he arguably won his last televised debate, in Goffstown New Hampshire, going after Marco Rubio (see below) for his “robotic repeat” of canned lines, this didn’t translate to a strong showing in the state’s primary.
Why is Sarah Palin on this list? After all, she gave up the governor’s office in her home state of Alaska and since then has managed to alienate nearly every GOP establishment figure and pundit. She’s even managed to turn off a large chunk of her original base of supporters (although a hardcore segment has stuck with her).
It hasn’t helped her that negative publicity about her family has undermined her in the press. Just when it looked like she was written off, Trump gave her a breath of fresh air when he crowed about her endorsement of him and talked lovingly of their “close friendship.”(?)
For Trump, even though on the surface it wouldn’t seem like Palin would bring much of an advantage to his campaign, bringing her aboard would be just the kind of attention-getting gambit that is his trademark; the press would have a field day with, and you wouldn’t be able to get the story out of the news for months, if not until the general election.
Love her or hate her, Palin would be sure to draw a crowd wherever she went — however, given her mixed success with public speaking and debating, this might not be a positive thing.
With a strong appeal to evangelicals and farther right conservatives, Ted Cruz could definitely bring something to a combined Trump-Cruz ticket. The problem is, as with Marco Rubio (see below), such nasty words have been exchanged between Trump and Cruz already that it’s hard to see how this bad blood could be overcome.
If Cruz stays in the race and manages to do well in other places besides his home state of Texas or if Trump stumbles later in his campaign, it’s possible such a partnership could be explored.
Certainly, from a regional perspective, Cruz balances Trump out; however, Trump doesn’t seem to be having too many problems in any particular region of the country at this point.
The “dirty tricks” charges that Trump, Rubio and Carson have leveled at Cruz may be too much of a negative for such a matchup to be worthwhile to Trump, even if he thought it might be worth considering. In addition, there’s been talk that Cruz might join Rubio or that he might cut a deal to leave the race in exchange for a nomination to the Supreme Court (where he was a clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist) if Rubio were to be the GOP nominee and then go on to win the general election.
With a second-place finish in the New Hampshire GOP primary, a strong appeal to moderates and a temperament that would seem to be the diametric opposite of Trump, John Kasich could very well attract exactly the type of voter who Trump turns off.
The problem? Trump may not feel he needs such voters. In fact, courting them may repel his larger bloc of zealous supporters.
Even though Kasich has strong governing credentials and could bring a gravitas to Trump’s campaign that is sorely lacking (not to mention a possible interest to the GOP establishment), he is exactly the kind of person Trump is not, and one suspects that the two would have zero chemistry.
In fact, it’s very possible that even if Kasich were offered the spot, he might turn it down purely on principle. Ultimately, Kasich is not a fighter, and Trump likes combatants who leave their opponents bloody.
Although USA Today said that Ben Carson was leading the pack of potential Trump VP choices, this is actually just a reflection of a scientifically-insignificant poll they quoted and seems to have no basis in reality. Carson has had the poorest showings of any major GOP candidate and has zero charisma on the debate stage as opposed to Trump’s massive scores with most audiences.
Even though Carly Fiorina had impressive debate showings early in the campaign, and it’s been shown she resonates among women voters, there may well be far too much bad blood between her and Trump, especially after he impugned her appearance and insulted her business record.
It’s too bad, because it seems like Fiorina was really itching to get her claws into Hillary Clinton. Although she has scant government experience, her private enterprise background would match up well with Trump’s, and her knowledge of high-tech would seem to balance Trump’s lack thereof (anyone remember his ideas about having Bill Gates shut down parts of the Internet?).
Although early in the year, some pundits were saying a combined Trump-Marco Rubio ticket would have a huge allure for GOP voters, Rubio has now drawn blood in his sparring with Trump to the point where it may be too late to salvage any kind of working relationship.
Funding from deep-pocketed donors with an “anyone-but-Trump” strategy has energized Rubio and brought out the junkyard dog in him. Even if he succeeds in battling Trump all the way to the convention, his increasing baggage as regards immigration by way of his “Gang of Eight” bill, lack of Senate experience and attacking ICE officers in the media may be a few strikes too many, especially when you consider that Trump could use all of the Hispanic support he can get.
Rubio seems likely to dig in his heels against Trump and try to pull all the establishment funding he can get (although from here on it may be too little, too late).
The South Carolina governor endorsed Rubio for the GOP nomination, but Trump has boasted of his friendship with her before, so could this linkup be a possibility? Haley brings youth, an Indian female identity and powerful governing credentials to the table, so she might seem to be a logical, common-sense choice for Trump. But when has Trump ever followed common sense?
An Unknown Left-Field Personality
If it’s one thing Trump is known for, it’s unpredictability. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Trump could pull a John McCain and bring someone from out of left field into the race, especially if he thinks his advantage is so decisive there’s nothing for him to lose by doing so.
Like McCain’s seemingly random choice of Palin, this could be a media play that gets the country talking (as if they’re not talking enough).
Trump loves press, and this could be the capper that seals his win of the nomination, provided the choice isn’t so controversial he loses voters.
Some prospects in the press have included names such as Florida Governor Rick Scott, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, business tycoon Carl Icahn and former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, all of whom might be either delighted or befuddled to get a call from the flashy frontrunner, so who knows what they might say to such an offer.
Trump is not a fool, and it’s clear he has excellent advisors. Any pick he selects will most likely be thoroughly vetted for public reaction before being presented.
At this point, Trump’s lead is starting to look near insurmountable, and there’s no reason (except to satisfy his own ego — which, it may be said, has never stopped him before) to rock the boat with a pick that could negatively impact him.