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Part 2: Is There A Conservative Dark Horse On Trump’s VP Short List?

Last week I reiterated a point I’ve made several times during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries: The choice Donald 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; the old “rules” about how to achieve party unity through geographic or ideological balance seem to be out the window as well. 

Donald TrumpGoing forward from this cycle it seems none of those rules applies, and merely placating conservatives isn’t going to be enough to win the General Election battle against Hillary Clinton. 

Trump himself has said little about his VP selection criteria beyond that 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 this vacuum I asked CHQ readers if there was a conservative dark horse on Donald Trump’s VP short list, and I suggested eleven names of solid conservatives who seemed to fill Trump’s criteria -- so now it’s time to take a look at the list, starting with those who got the fewest votes, or who don’t seem to fit the criteria. 

The first candidate who received a fair number of write-in votes, but who we can safely take off the list is Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson took himself out of the running early on, and if one of Donald Trump’s principle criteria is a VP “who knows Washington, is able to deal with the Congress,” this would clearly eliminate Dr. Carson. 

On the other hand, we can fairly say that the fact that Dr. Carson received spontaneous support indicates the grassroots hunger for outsiders remains strong, and also that Dr. Carson’s grassroots cultural conservative and pro-life supporters are still active and willing to support him. 

The same can also be said to some degree about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Governor Palin clearly does not fit the criteria of a vice president who knows Washington and is able to deal with the Congress, but she remains a strong grassroots favorite -- again with an active, if largely informal, base of support. 

Two of Trump’s former competitors, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul each also received at least one write-in vote, but the very fact that their support was so scant suggests that while they do fill Trump’s criteria of a vice president who knows Washington and is able to deal with the Congress, CHQ readers don’t think they add much to Trump’s coalition. Although Senator Rand Paul, as a favorite of libertarian-leaning Republicans, would certainly add some ideological balance to the Trump coalition, it is hard to dispute the judgment of the ballot box. 

I put former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on the list (Jindal is a former Member of the House) because he filled the criteria of knows Washington, is able to deal with the Congress, and because he was one of the earliest candidates to come out and campaign on the dangers of Muslim immigration, which at least looks like a good ideological fit with Donald Trump. But once again Bobby Jindal’s scant support suggests that his potential can fairly be dismissed as unlikely. 

Finally, let’s look at the three members of Congress at the bottom of the vote tally: Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, and Texas Congressman and Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling. 

I put Chairman Hensarling on the list for his association with two of Trump’s major issues: jobs and the economy. Before he became Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Hensarling was one of the most original thinkers in the House Republican Conference on economic issues.  

While Paul Ryan got most of the credit, his co-author for much of the pro-growth agenda legislation Republicans pushed while they were in the minority the first two years of Obama’s presidency was Jeb Hensarling. And unlike Ryan, Hensarling wasn’t afraid to champion out-of-the-box ideas, such as a spending limitation amendment to the Constitution. 

Hensarling is also one of the few Republicans who didn’t buckle and support TARP in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, and probably more than any other committee chairman on the House side can bridge Trump’s anti-establishment persona with solid policy on jobs and the economy. 

Unfortunately, being on the House side, unless you are Speaker, is not a ticket to national name recognition. And while Jeb Hensarling has the policy chops and resume, those who don’t watch those issues have, as the votes show, probably never heard of him. 

When it comes to national security and national defense issues – a perceived weakness for Trump – Senator Tom Cotton is one of the real conservative stars. He is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, an intellectual powerhouse, and has often been the first senator to call out establishment GOP failures and to challenge Senators Bob Corker, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham when they give away America’s interests to Iran, or started talking “bomb first think later” strategy in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

However, while Senator Cotton is a national security star, he comes from a small state and, as the votes show, he has no national name recognition or grassroots organization behind him. Plus, as a first-term senator who has taken on the Senate GOP leadership more than once, his ability to actually sell Trump’s agenda on the Hill is unproven at best. 

Finally, there is Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. I put Joni on the list because she has a solid record as a conservative, as a woman she may help Trump communicate with a demographic where he is perceived to have a problem, and because she seems to revel in the kind of “in your face” campaigning that is Trump’s hallmark. 

Who can forget Senator Ernest’s “make ‘em squeal” campaign spot where she promised to cut wasteful spending the same way she castrated hogs on her family farm in Iowa. But, just like Senator Tom Cotton, she may be a star in many ways, but, as our poll showed, she has no national profile or grassroots organization to add to the Trump coalition. 

What’s the bottom line?  

If we read the tea leaves from the bottom of the poll up we do get some hints as to what CHQ readers for are looking for in Trump’s VP: Someone who is a fellow outsider, someone with grassroots support, someone with solid cultural conservative credentials, and maybe someone to help overcome Trump’s perceived weakness on national security and defense issues.  

But for CHQ readers, being an outsider, having a grassroots base, and being a strong cultural conservative, like Sarah Palin and Ben Carson, beats Capitol Hill experience and the ability to help Donald Trump sell his ideas to Congress. 

Tomorrow, I examine the middle of the pack in Part Three of “Is There A Conservative Dark Horse On Trump’s VP Short List?”

Click here for Part one of the series, "Does Trump’s VP Short List Include A Conservative Dark Horse?"

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trump's VP Choice

One thing we should all be looking for is does trump pick someone who supports his position on the issues of building the wall and controlling illegal immigration. If he were to pick someone like rubio then we know that Trump is not serious about either, since rubio does not support either. He supported amnesty and only altered his position after the AMERICAN CITIZENS attacked him for his position. I would say that anyone who supports amnesty would not truly support building the wall.
I for one am skeptical about trump's continues proclamation that he will deport the illegal aliens then bring them back legally. That seems like a lot of misspent money, time and effort, deport them then bring them back legally.
And then the question remains just how does increasing legal immigration help the average AMERICAN CITIZEN to re-enter the work force. That must be the #1 concern of the President of the United States and Congress. They must represent AMERICAN CITIZENS not foreigners.