We still don’t know if it’s despite or because of everything. But former President Donald Trump is still the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024, and we know he’s not bringing his previous Veep Mike Pence along for another ride this time.
The Pence pick in 2016 was one of the few times Trump listened to the Republican Party bigwigs. Pence was a favorite among values voters, supported by limited government tea party voters, and still very amenable to the GOP establishment. He was just the guy to give reassurance to traditional Republican voters–some who were mortified by Trump.
This time, if he wins the nomination, Trump will not need the stamp of officialdom. He has already been president. According to various news reports, Trump’s top consideration is going to be loyalty.
Some speculation is wild, like Tucker Carlson. Other speculation is conventional, such as Rep. Elise Stefanik. There is a ton of talk that Trump will pick a woman, with options both wild and conventional.
Plenty of names are seeping out of Trump World about a not-so-short list he is thinking about. Here’s a look at the pros and cons for those possible picks, as well as the real viability, and rated on a scale of highly likely to highly unlikely.
Byron Donalds: Could Donald Trump Pick Him?
No media speculation on Florida Rep. Byron Donalds yet. But he would make the most sense in a combination of Trump loyalty and crossover appeal.
Donalds did a strong job defending Trump in the post-game show of the CNN town hall. But he also comes across as a mainstream conservative politician.
An African American, he would be a historic choice for vice president. During the House speaker fight, Donalds got enough votes to keep Kevin McCarthy from the speakership through seven of the 15 rounds of voting.
Also, he’s a Floridian who endorsed Trump over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. A presidential candidate who values loyalty primarily will remember this.
However, it seems unlikely on its face that Donalds would pass the real Trump loyalty test anymore than Pence. Trump showed he expects a vice president to do something illegal if asked. Pence said no. And Donalds seems like the type of guy who would probably say no as well.
Marjorie Taylor Greene
During the uprising against McCarthy in the speaker fight, she stood firmly in the establishment camp backing the party leader after Trump endorsed the eventual speaker.
Her antics and silly talk about a “national divorce” actually make Trump look normal. She would have zero crossover appeal. But she says nice things about Trump. One anonymous source that NBC reports being close to her said Greene’s “whole vision is to be vice president.”
Meanwhile, former Trump advisor Steve Bannon said, “She sees herself on the short list for Trump’s VP.”
Kari Lake and Donald Trump?
It appeared that Kari Lake was going to win the Arizona governor’s race but lost. Much like Trump after, and Democrat Stacey Abrams who keeps losing Georgia governor’s races, Lake refuses to accept defeat.
She was the keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC.
Despite never having held office, Trump is reportedly “strongly considering” putting Lake on the ticket.
However, Axios reported, “But Trump friends say Lake carries a big downside: He wants no risk that his running mate could outshine him.”
So this would be a far out possibility, but The Guardian included fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson as a potential running mate. Get ready for serious pearl clutching if this happens.
It would be the ultimate stick-it-to-the-man ticket. Carlson’s pending gig on Twitter might not be as impossible to walk away from the top-rated show on the largest cable network. He also spoke in Iowa last summer.
He has mostly embraced Trump’s populist agenda. However, the text messages exposed in the Dominion lawsuit show Carlson said of Trump, “He’s a demonic force, a destroyer,” and “I hate him passionately.”
Even if this were a serious possibility, if Trump’s top priority is loyalty, these text messages would give him pause. Also, if it’s even nominally true that Trump is concerned Kari Lake could upstage him, such a concern would doubly apply to Carlson.
Rating: Highly Unlikely
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the first White House press secretary to achieve elected office.
Her father, Mike Huckabee, won the Iowa Caucus in 2008, and won several other states that year before coming in a distant second place to John McCain.
She did a great job in her response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
However, Trump might not forget that during the speech she said, “It is time for a new generation of Republican leadership.” It wasn’t a direct attack against Trump, but the message was clear enough.
Rating: Somewhat Likely
Not worth a lot of time. But traditionally, the runner up is at least considered a possibility for the VP nomination–think Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1980 or John Kerry and John Edwards in 2004.
The possibility of Trump-DeSantis 2024 should at least be broached. Many Republicans would love it. But it’s incredibly unlikely given the acrimony the two will likely have by the end of the primary.
Rating: Highly Unlikely
Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who was a Democrat who represented Hawaii, has campaigned for Republican candidates in 2022.
Once deemed a rising star among Democrats, she turned against the rising neocon contingency in her own party and became a pariah. She unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and openly clashed with the 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton. She’s now a registered independent and a regular on Fox News.
It doesn’t seem like she is ideologically coordinated with Trump on everything. However, Trump transcends ideology.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who Trump appointed as his United Nations ambassador, only partially passes the loyalty test. She criticized him after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
But she later said she wouldn’t run for president if Trump ran. She then entered the race despite Trump running. However, she did give him a heads up. Trump has mostly had positive things to say about her. She hasn’t been aggressive beyond suggesting she’s more electable. But her best hope is to have a couple of good debate performances while jockeying for a VP spot with either Trump or DeSantis.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is another prominent voice after a book tour that put her on national conservative media. She’s got some of the qualities people like about DeSantis, in that she didn’t cave to the pandemic-era demands.
Noem has endorsed Trump for president, and even criticized DeSantis, which could score some points.
She also won’t scare voters away the way Greene might.
Rating: Highly Likely
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has a great personal story and is a strong orator. The only African American Republican in the Senate is himself running for president.
In the field against Trump and DeSantis, he is most likely to be impressive enough in the campaign to get himself on a ticket.
Rating: Somewhat Likely
Elise Stefanik and Trump?
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York is the number three member of the House GOP leadership team and came to some national notoriety during the first Trump impeachment.
She once touted some socially lefty views one might expect from a northeastern Republican. However, she more recently proclaimed, “I am ultra-Maga. And I’m proud of it.” Trump has called her “a star.”
Rating: Highly Likely
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Another longshot is the son of a former attorney general and nephew of a former president. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is winning almost one-fifth of Democratic voters in polling against Biden in the Democratic primary.
Here again, Bannon has pushed Kennedy as “an excellent choice” of a running mate for Trump.
If Kennedy far surpasses expectations against Biden–and appears to have an actual base rather than just a repository for anti-Biden protest votes, he might opt to mount a third-party bid.
Kennedy is running in the Democratic Party of 15 years ago, on a platform of limited government surveillance, free speech and skepticism of corporate power. But he would still likely take more votes from Trump than Biden in a general election.
So, the threat of a disruptive third-party campaign could be enough to compel Team Trump to bring what would potentially be the highest name ID ticket ever, Trump-Kennedy 2024.