“I don’t care how you ask the question or what you do to nudge it, I’m not going to tell you the answer.”
Such is the approximate response to repeated queries about who his running mate will be
from presumed 2024 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump these days. Trump is about to pick up his third win – out of three – in an early nominating state today as Nevada Republicans head to their respective caucus places to take part in what the state GOP deems the real exercise in democracy in the high desert, having opted to ignore the results from the “official” state primary the other night.
It's a long story, but Democrats in the state legislature set out to upend Nevada’s traditional caucus system in favor of a standard primary election, which former president Donald Trump’s campaign chose not to take part in. As a result, Trump’s name didn’t even appear on the ballot on Tuesday, leaving the establishment fostered glory to challenger Nikki Haley, whose only serious competition stemmed from the “None of these candidates” line on the ballots.
“None of these candidates” beat Haley handily, but she was still credited with a “win”. Nevada could be her lone victory in her desperate and increasingly futile ruling class crusade to keep Trump from appearing on November’s general election docket for the third consecutive time.
Nikki’s was the hollowest of hollow triumphs, however, as all of the state’s Republican National Convention delegates will be awarded in today’s caucuses. And Haley’s name won’t be on any of the ballots, either, so it’s safe to say her delegate tally will come somewhere between one and negative-one. Poor Haley. She’s too vain – or obtuse – to recognize what she’s doing to herself. Even if America’s conservatives and Republicans experienced a rapid change of heart, with three solid wins under his belt now, Trump basically can’t be stopped.
At least by accepted political means. Illness? Perhaps. By some other candidate? Heck no.
So, as might be expected in such a fruitless already-know-the-winner contest, attention turns to whom Trump will select as his vice president. As alluded to in the line to open this column, Trump’s getting the inquiry everywhere he goes, where his gift for deflecting the real response is on full display. Trump will spill the beans only when he’s ready.
This past weekend, for example, Trump name-dropped (on “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo”) both South Carolina senator and former 2024 rival Tim Scott as well as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, praising both for their staunch support of his candidacy and admitting that they were each in the mix and would make for good running mates.
Others suggest that Trump is holding a type of competition for the spot. In an article titled “The search for Trump’s running mate: ‘like auditions for The Apprentice’”, The Guardian’s David Smith wrote:
“Trump’s campaign surrogates in the recent Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, both of which he won handily, have been trying to outdo each other with extravagant displays of fealty. ‘It’s very clear he’s holding these open auditions like it’s The Apprentice,’ said Kurt Bardella, a Democratic strategist. ‘He will flirt with everyone. He will make them dance. They will all debase themselves and humiliate themselves and jockey for that spot.’
“When he first ran for president in 2016, Trump understood that he needed a vice-presidential pick who could help shore up support among Republican evangelicals and social conservatives, who were suspicious of the thrice-married reality TV star. Pence, the then Indiana governor and fierce social conservative, was from what Trump likes to call central casting.
“This year Trump’s allies and Republican strategists believe that he needs help attracting suburban swing voters in a handful of battleground states, where November’s election will likely be decided. Many commentators therefore predict that he will choose a woman or a person of colour, especially since the demise of the constitutional right to abortion.”
Like sure, Trump is bent on choosing a human being with two X chromosomes because of abortion, or that any suburban white “soccer mom” will be swayed to Trump’s side in the election because there was a semi-identity politics driven woman standing by him waving at this summer’s convention. As I’ve argued a number of times in the past, where such considerations would drive the thought processes of many “normal” Republican politicians, when Trump opens the floor to advice, he gives himself all the speaking slots.
But if Trump was to grant bonus points for a “what” candidate (“what” the person is rather than “who” he or she is), then it could make sense to favor ethnic minorities and women.
John McCain seemingly did this in 2008, pulling then little-known Sarah Palin from the Alaskan wilderness to perhaps balance an election that was predestined to be all about the potential for America’s first black president. Barack Obama didn’t have much of a resume or experience with the vast majority of hot political issues (he’d only been in the U.S. Senate for a couple years prior to mounting his presidential run), but he sure could deliver a pre-written speech! The Big O’s golden voice caused weak-minded Democrats and in-the-tank media personalities to swoon and get thrills up their legs, which was exactly what he needed to overcome Hillary Clinton in the Democrat nominating race and then best a hopelessly pathetic McCain in the general election.
Trump’s task will be more complicated this year, since he’s been on the American media scene for decades and turns off as many as he “thrills”. He’ll have to win this year’s election the old-fashioned way, by offering a vice president who checks the qualifications boxes as well as presents the appearance of being loyal and deferential to him personally.
Smith’s article put forward Empire State Rep. Elise Stefanik as the flavor of the hour favorite to be Trump’s pick, citing former RNC Chair Michael Steele (a noted Never Trumper) as an authority on why the former president would appreciate Stefanik in particular. Steele’s not an expert on anything going on in the GOP these days, but for a left-leaning rag like The Guardian, he qualifies as someone to quote.
If Trump were to pick Elise Stefanik, he would presumably do so because of the upstate New Yorker’s age (she’ll turn forty a couple days before Independence Day this year) and she’s, of course, a woman, both factors the establishment media chooses to focus on and highlight when they seemingly don’t have anything better to do than root out a member of the GOP House congressional leadership (and therefore is someone with a pretty wide selection of quotes, etc.) who happens to be from one of Trump’s home domiciles and, and, and…
It doesn’t make sense that Trump would choose Stefanik over a host of more accomplished (state governors, anyone?) pols, primarily because Elise isn’t really all that well known, originates from a state that most likely will be blue (despite Trump’s claiming he intends to compete there) and, forgive me, doesn’t lend the aura of being prepared to step in as president at a moment’s notice.
The House of Representatives has traditionally not served as fertile ground for a presidential run (or a vice presidential run either, as spineless Paul Ryan demonstrated as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 – Ryan let Biden walk all over him in their lone VP debate), and Stefanik would be a drag on the ticket in terms of foreign policy, etc. Watch closely what Elise says during the ongoing debate over Ukraine funding – will she echo Trump’s non-interventionist policy, or is she closer in philosophy to the aggressive Bush establishment wing of the party?
Beyond the question of who it eventually will be (for Trump’s number two), will it really matter that much? Will voters truly weigh this year’s vice president picks heavier than in a “normal” election year because of age… or other factors, such as Kamala Harris’s obvious political deficiencies?
Some people, and no doubt most members of the establishment media, will be shocked when the inevitable answer is “no”. Yes, it’s true, both Trump and president senile Joe Biden are far up there in age, and therefore the odds of either of them completing a full four-year term are much longer than they’d be for someone, literally, half their numbers, but most, if not all voters will still assess which of the two presidential nominees truly fits their preferences and vote accordingly.
Democrats are driven by appeasing their single women voters, since married men, married women and non-married men are all majority supporters of Republicans, while unmarried women back Democrats by an astonishing +37 points (thank you, Scott McKay from The American Spectator, who explained the married/non-married gender distinction better than anyone).
Democrats who held their nose for senile Joe Biden in 2020 supposedly did so because he was closely linked with Barack Obama and not because the corrupt old fool had squelched his own olfactory senses to add idiot cackling Kamala Harris to his ticket. Back then, Biden hoped to shore-up his most ardent backers – black women – and it appears to have worked in Harris’s example.
Ol’ senile Joe still has Whoopi Goldberg’s vote!
But Trump will be Trump when choosing his ticket-mate. As noted above, Trump recently said nice things about Tim Scott and Kristi Noem, but he also, in the same interview, claimed that he hadn’t completely made up his mind yet and there were a lot of individuals still being considered. Trump understands that time is on his side where this matter is involved, and to tip his hand early wouldn’t buy him anything except distraction – and would also provide his opposition and the establishment media (the same thing?) more opportunities to talk trash about him and his designated future vice president.
Chances are Trump will continue to be evasive on the veep query, and the gossip columnists and pundits will still be begging him for hints.
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