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Part 4: Is There A Conservative Dark Horse On Trump’s VP Short List?

Yesterday, I looked at the middle of the pack in the CHQ GOP VP Poll and how they fit with Donald Trump’s job description for his Vice President: Someone “who knows Washington and is able to deal with the Congress.” 

After reviewing the four names from the middle of the pack -- Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-4), South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) -- only Ohio dark horseRepresentative Jim Jordan was a clear ideological fit with Donald Trump. 

However, even though Jordan is well regarded in his home state of Ohio, a must-win state for the GOP to win the White House, as a junior member of the House of Representatives, Jordan did not seem to meet the other half of Trump’s job description – “…and could be viewed as somebody who could be president." 

To be viewed as somebody who could be president clearly requires the prospect to have a national profile, a record of accomplishment in politics, and the gravitas associated with being a thought-leader on the conservative policy agenda. 

And that in a nutshell describes the three top vote-getters in the poll: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. 

Unfortunately, even though Ted Cruz is the favorite of movement conservatives, and as the second highest vote-getter and candidate who carried the second most states, would ‘under the old rules of politics’ be the logical – indeed almost mandatory choice – in this age of creative disruption in politics? I think Senator Cruz is the first candidate we should eliminate from the list. 

Trump’s scorched-earth primary campaign, in which he attacked Cruz’s wife and father, left so much bad blood between the candidates that some sources claim Cruz said he would join a Trump ticket only when and if Hell froze over. 

That sounds like a pretty firm “NO” to me. 

That leaves two distinguished conservative leaders for us to consider: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. 

Both are, in their own ways, among the premier thought-leaders in the Republican Party. 

Newt Gingrich was the top vote-getter on the list and has been a fixture in movement conservative politics since the rise of the New Right in the 1970s. Newt was a star among the young conservative backbenchers in Congress who met around my kitchen table and in my family room in McLean, Virginia plotting strategy to take on the stodgy losers of the entrenched Capitol Hill Republican establishment and create a new conservative coalition that elected Ronald Reagan as our first and only modern conservative President. 

Newt is an intellectual powerhouse, and in his early days as Speaker much of that energy was directed toward solid conservative accomplishments, such as balancing the budget and passing welfare reform. 

But Newt’s frenetic energy also led him into three marriages, some embarrassing financial dealings, and an internal rebellion among his closest colleagues in the House. And while Newt’s debating skills and intelligence are second to none, those misadventures squandered an enormous amount of goodwill with grassroots conservatives. 

Unfortunately, Newt’s history would provide unwelcome fodder for the media and the Democrats who would no doubt love to level charges of hypocrisy against cultural conservatives for supporting a pair of candidates who have six marriages between them, but whose platform includes support for traditional marriage and the rest of the conservative family agenda. 

These issues were what Romney used to kneecap Newt in 2012 and there’s no reason to believe the Democrats wouldn’t do the same thing in 2016 if he were on the ticket with Donald Trump, and to me that seems reason enough to set him aside as a potential GOP VP. 

This leaves a final candidate on our list, Alabama’s Senator Jeff Sessions, who was the number three vote-getter on our list. 

Long before there was a Donald Trump campaign, and long before there was “Make America Great Again” drawing tens of thousands of conservative populists to Trump rallies, Senator Sessions was laboring away on Capitol Hill making those same points about immigration and trade. 

And long before Donald Trump made his comments about the dangers of Muslim immigration, Senator Jeff Sessions was holding hearings and issuing studies of the terrorist threat posed by Muslim immigrants. 

Indeed, there’s probably no one on Capitol Hill more in sync policy-wise with Donald Trump than Jeff Sessions. Add to that the fact that Senator Sessions has surrounded himself with a top-notch staff of solid conservative advisors, and you have an almost ideal candidate for Vice President. 

Unfortunately, the “almost” in that sentence is based on what I see as two critical shortcomings in what Senator Sessions brings to the Trump campaign. 

First, while Senator Sessions is esteemed among conservatives in Washington, he is not a national figure in the sense that, say, Newt Gingrich or Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or Sarah Palin are national figures with built-in grassroots bases of support already in place. There’s no go-to Jeff Sessions supporter in Iowa or Pennsylvania or the other swing states to call on to kick start a rally or bus tour. 

Second, unlike Rep. Jim Jordan who could help Donald Trump in the must-win state of Ohio, Senator Sessions comes from a relatively small and conservative state that doesn’t add anything to Donald Trump’s electoral map – a Republican who can’t win Alabama has no prayer of winning the White House with or without the state’s esteemed Senator on the ticket. 

Finally, Senator Sessions has never really been tested on the national scene. He hasn’t been exposed to the intense media glare and no one really knows how he would “sell” out on the campaign trail. This is no small thing – it is what tripped-up Senator Dan Quayle in 1988 when a candidate who was thought to be one of the best grassroots campaigners in the Senate found himself in a totally alien environment that threw him off his game as the Vice Presidential candidate. 

As good as the fit between Donald Trump and Senator Jeff Sessions appears to be on paper, when you look at it from the harsh perspective of a national campaign, putting Senator Sessions on the ticket might feel right, but it adds little to Trump’s electoral math. 

This examination of the pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses of the most obvious conservative prospects for Vice President left me wondering if there isn’t someone else – a true dark horse – whom Donald Trump ought to consider as part of his short list of prospective nominees for Vice President. 

The answer to that question is YES, and tomorrow, I’ll give you my suggestion of a true conservative dark horse who could help Donald Trump solidify a wining populist-conservative coalition, and covers the objections raised against the other prospects in this and the preceding columns in the series.

Click here for Part one of the series: Does Trump’s VP Short List Include A Conservative Dark Horse? (Part I)

Click here for Part two of the series: Is There A Conservative Dark Horse On Trump’s VP Short List?

Click here for Part Three of the series: Is There A Conservative Dark Horse On Trump’s VP Short List?

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I agree, Sen Jeff Sessions is

I agree, Sen Jeff Sessions is the one, especially now as it looks like Hillary will be the establishment, open borders, candidate.

KASICH

I called his office and asked him why he wants a liberal scotus...why he won;t honor the pledge he took to support the nominee and WHY he won't respect the voters!!!!!!!!!

Please do the same
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