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Does Trump’s VP Short List Include A Conservative Dark Horse?

As I pointed out in my two-part series on the creative disruption at work in this year’s presidential election many, if not most, of the old rules of politics have been disrupted on the Right by Donald Trump and on the Left by Bernie Sanders. 

Donald Trump’s populist juggernaut has left the Republican establishment a bombed-out wreck, and as the Republican National Convention approaches no one has a clear picture of what might happen on the Trump conservative VP candidatesRepublican Platform, and most importantly on the Republican Nomination for Vice President. 

The choice Trump makes for Vice President will make – or break – the deal he needs to conclude with conservatives to cement a winning populist – conservative coalition, but the creative disruption of today’s politics has thrown the old rules and guidelines of vice presidential selection out the window. 

Gone are the days when Party Bosses could get together in a smoke-filled room and handpick the candidate for Vice President. 

Gone too is the mandate for geographical balance, such as the Massachusetts – Texas axis created by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. That rule went out the window when Bill Clinton selected fellow Southerner Al Gore as his Vice President and was buried for good when George W. Bush selected fellow Westerner former Wyoming Congressman (actually fellow Texan) Dick Cheney as his VP. 

In 1980 the Republican establishment demanded ideological balance and a virtual co-presidency between conservative Ronald Reagan and former President Jerry Ford. Reagan wisely concluded that such an arrangement could never work and finessed the issue by choosing another establishment Republican, second-place finisher George H.W. Bush as his Vice President thereby achieving the ideological balance that the establishment demanded as the price for supporting Reagan. 

But this year the Republican establishment has no such claim on the second place slot. Their favorite son – former Florida Governor Jeb Bush collapsed in the first round of primaries and their back-up candidate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, lost his home state to Trump in a landslide. 

And the candidate with the second most delegates – Texas Senator Ted Cruz – was so bruised by Trump’s scorched earth primary campaign targeting his wife and father that he has been quoted as saying he would take a place on the ticket with Trump only when and if Hell freezes over. 

Of course there are personal dynamics involved in the process; George H.W. Bush had seen enough of Jack Kemp’s attempts to hold Ronald Reagan’s feet to the fire to know that he didn’t want Kemp a few doors away in the West Wing.  

So in 1988, when it came time to pick a vice presidential candidate, even though Kemp was favored by most conservatives (and even some in the establishment) he chose a reliable, but junior, conservative in Indiana Senator Dan Quayle. 

And truth be told, because Republicans have fielded a steady stream of content-free establishment candidates for President, in the post-Reagan era the calculation most often used to choose the Republican vice presidential candidate has been “who can we pick to placate conservatives?” 

That – and to inject some spark into an otherwise listless campaign – is certainly why Bob Dole chose Jack Kemp in 1996. 

And after flirting with an outside-the-box choice, like his pal Connecticut Independent – Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, that’s why John McCain chose the dynamic boat-rocking conservative Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. 

While conservatives have been betrayed by Paul Ryan so many times since 2012 that most no longer consider him to be one of us, mostly on the strength of Ryan’s pro-life voting record and pro-growth economic ideas, conservatives urged Mitt Romney to choose Ryan as his running mate to get conservatives on board. 

Going forward from this cycle it seems none of those rules apply because merely placating conservatives isn’t going to be enough to win the General Election battle against Hillary Clinton. 

Which legs of the conservative coalition would Trump need to placate to get conservatives wholeheartedly on board?  

The old Reagan coalition is battered if not broken; Evangelicals and culturally conservative Christians split their votes between Cruz and Trump. Trump has openly split with the interventionist Bush Republican establishment on matters of national security and indicated little interest in placating them by giving them a say in his selection of Vice President. 

The good news is that while it is clear Donald Trump is no movement conservative, he is not necessarily an enemy of conservative policies, as we know Hillary Clinton and many establishment Republicans to be. Based on what he has said during the campaign, and his record, it is clear that on many issues of concern to conservatives he is either ignorant or indifferent. 

Trump’s indifference to much of the conservative agenda is no small thing, but it would leave us with a candidate who, unlike John McCain and Mitt Romney, might at least be educable. 

So what metrics can be applied or what criteria will enter into Donald Trump’s selection of his running mate; number of Twitter followers, geography, acceptability to the GOP establishment, the ability to bring conservative support to the Trump ticket, resume, all of the above, or none of the above? 

It is clear that conservatives have an opening to influence Trump in the selection of his running mate, because what Trump has said is indicative of his background as a CEO in this new age of creative disruption; he "wants a vice president who knows Washington, is able to deal with the Congress and could be viewed as somebody who could be president." 

In other words, a working VP who, with a Republican majority in Congress, bridges the full spectrum of right-of-center Washington. 

This is a unique creative disruption-created opportunity to advance the conservative agenda if conservatives can influence Donald Trump to choose the right vice presidential candidate. 

An establishment Republican like Chris Christie or a go along-get-along Capitol Hill insider like Tennessee Senator Bob Corker won’t get conservatives on board, and such a candidate would never help us advance the cause of conservative government if the Trump ticket won. 

Here in no particular order are the names of some credible conservatives, including at least one strong conservative dark horse, that might credibly fill the job description of Vice President in a Donald Trump administration. I invite you to go to my Trump VP poll and vote to let me know what you think

In the coming days I’ll examine the strengths and weaknesses of those on the list and perhaps throw out some new names no one has yet considered – and I'll knockdown some decidedly non-conservative alternatives that, like the whack-a-moles in the arcade game, keep popping up in the establishment media’s coverage of the Republican nomination for Vice President.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz 

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich 

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions 

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-5) 

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) 

Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal 

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry 

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst 

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton 

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott 

Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-4) 

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What Rush got wrong - Newt!

Recently, Limbaugh stated that Trump's combative presser last week was exactly what Republicans had been waiting decades to see; that NOBODY else had taken on the media the way Trump does.

Not quite true - Before the Romney machine took him out, and then sealed his own fate by alienating libertarians, the one man in the 2012 field who rejected the media's premises and went right on the attack against them was the guy with the surprise winning streak - Newt Gingrich.

Like Trump, not the most conservative guy in the room (but pretty good overall), and like Trump, not willing to let the media set the narrative, but unlike Trump, a veritable policy idea factory, Newt fits the bill rather well.

There may be others more conservative, but few who would be a better fit.



Another name

A healing name that is not on the list would be Liz Cheney.

She's conservative, extremely capable, and able to draw on enormous insight from her father/family/connections.

She doesn't bring a purple state, but she brings a conservative demographic, a female demographic, and a chance at bridging the divide that seems to affect the republican party.