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One of these five people will (probably) be Trump’s running mate

Three vice presidential prospects have ties to Capitol Hill

At the start of the 112th Congress on Jan. 5, 2011, Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., left, hugs Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., as Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., shakes hands with Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.
At the start of the 112th Congress on Jan. 5, 2011, Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., left, hugs Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., as Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., shakes hands with Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif. (Bill Clark/Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — Even though the Republican presidential primary isn’t over, former President Donald Trump is the clear front-runner. So speculating about his vice presidential nominee is a natural next step.

Republicans don’t prioritize diversity like Democrats do, but it’s hard to believe the Republican Party is going to march into the 2024 general election with a ticket composed of two white guys. It’s possible, but Republicans also have plenty of options to diversify their ticket.

It can be dangerous to predict what’s going on inside Trump’s head, but it’s no surprise that the former president values someone who is loyal, camera-ready and has star power without overshadowing him. It’s also clear Trump doesn’t care about his running mate coming from a swing state, considering he tapped Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to run with him in 2016 (in news first reported by Roll Call).

At this point, it would be a surprise if his running mate doesn’t come from this list of five folks, and three of them are familiar names on Capitol Hill.

Kristi Noem. Trump’s recent trip to South Dakota to accept the governor’s endorsement stoked the flames of talk that Noem might be on the ticket. The bold Trump-Noem 2024 sign on the video board behind the event’s stage looked awfully intentional. 

Noem was first elected to Congress in 2010 after defeating Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in a high-profile race, and served in the House for four terms before getting elected governor in 2018. Noem was reelected four years later and was talked about as a presidential contender herself ahead of 2024, but she got caught up in a nepotism scandal and was criticized by some conservatives for her handling of the effort to ban transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams.

Kari Lake. The Arizona Republican may be the most successful candidate at emulating Trump’s style and confrontational approach to the media. That contributed to her loss in the close 2022 gubernatorial race (which, in Trump fashion, she still claims she won). But that doesn’t take her out of the running to be the former president’s running mate. 

The former local TV news anchor has maintained her public loyalty to Trump and has a penchant for the spotlight. But Lake is also considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2024, and is reportedly planning to announce a campaign next month. Trump recently called potential candidate Blake Masters, the 2022 Senate nominee, and told him he couldn’t beat Lake in a primary, according to The New York Times. If Trump planned to tap Lake as his running mate, then he probably wouldn’t expend the energy to clear the Senate field for her. 

Tim Scott. The African American senator from South Carolina is currently trying to defeat Trump in the primary, but he hasn’t been critical enough (or enough of a threat) to provoke Trump’s ire. 

A former member of the state House, Scott was first elected to the U.S. House in 2010 and was appointed to the Senate in 2013, replacing Republican Jim DeMint. Even though Trump doesn’t need help shoring up his evangelical base, Scott talks authentically about his faith and is a popular speaker on the Republican circuit. Democrats have some concerns that lagging enthusiasm among Black voters could hurt Biden in 2024, while Republicans like to promote their support for Black politicians as defense to accusations of racism. 

Nikki Haley. Of anyone on the list, the former South Carolina governor has been the most critical of Trump. But that doesn’t mean Trump won’t tap her to be his running mate. He chose her to be his ambassador to the United Nations (even if it was to help supporter Henry McMaster become governor), and she was the rare appointee to leave his administration unscathed. 

Haley would bring multiple layers of diversity to the ticket (potentially setting up a historic vice presidential debate between two Indian American women) and foreign policy experience. Even though Haley criticized elderly politicians, Trump has not responded directly or sparred with her like he has with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, opening the door to another alliance.

Elise Stefanik. The New York congresswoman from upstate New York has undergone a political transformation from a mainstream Republican who worked in the George W. Bush administration and on campaigns for Tim Pawlenty and Paul Ryan before getting elected to House leadership and morphing into a prominent Trump apologist. The loyalty from the House Republican Conference chair can’t be lost on the former president. 

If elected, Stefanik, who will be 40 on Inauguration Day 2025, would be the third-youngest vice president in history. John C. Breckinridge became vice president (under James Buchanan) at 36 years old and Richard M. Nixon became vice president (under Dwight D. Eisenhower) at 40 years old. Stefanik would be younger than Dan Quayle (41) and Theodore Roosevelt (42) when they took office. 

There’s no need to put together a similar list of potential running mates for President Joe Biden. Throwing the first Black, female vice president off the ticket would torpedo the president’s reelection chances. Biden can’t win reelection without Democrats’ most loyal voting bloc: Black women. And ultimately, if Biden loses, he should have no one to blame but himself. He’s the president and the race won’t be lost (or won) because of his vice president.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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