With less than two weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention, presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump appears to be zeroing in on a running mate.
Trump is in need of a campaign partner who would be compatible with his unpredictable style but who could at the same time ease concerns about the New York billionaire among social and ideological conservatives.
Trump could also use someone who could help him in a crucial battleground or swing state, especially Rust Belt states in the Northeast and Midwest. He has referred to his need for an experienced Washington hand who could help him get his legislative agenda through Congress. And he might also be keen on picking someone with substantial military experience to help fill in the gaps in his knowledge of defense issues.
Trump has certainly stirred the pot of speculation in recent days over whom he will ultimately choose.
He will campaign on Tuesday evening in North Carolina with Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who played a major role in the congressional review of the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.
He chatted on Monday in New Jersey with freshman Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, a rising star in the Republican Party and a veteran who once deployed to the Middle East. The billionaire businessman also met with Indiana governor Mike Pence and his wife on Saturday at Trump’s New Jersey golf club.
Last week, the Trump camp signaled that former House speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were atop Trump’s short list of potential running mates.
Voters who took part in the primaries have some advice for the two rivals in selecting their running mates.
By a three to one margin, Republicans say that Trump should select a vice presidential candidate who has Washington experience, while only one in five think he should pick another outsider like himself in order to “shake things up.”
On the other side of the race, Democrats by a two to one margin think that Hillary Clinton should pick a running mate with solid liberal or progressive credentials, like those of her chief challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, or Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has begun campaigning for her. Only one in four Democrats would like to see her pick a more centrist running mate, which would preclude someone like Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
If Trump were to follow the advice of a majority of Republican voters, how would this impact the GOP vice presidential sweepstakes? Here’s a quick look at what that might mean to Trump’s apparent short list:
Newt Gingrich. The former House Speaker from Georgia has openly criticized Trump for some of his views, which doesn’t help his cause. But none of the other candidates can match Gingrich’s breadth of experience, detailed knowledge of the issues and brilliance as a political strategist, one who co-authored the Contract With America and led the Republicans to reclaim control of the House in 1994. He unsuccessfully ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, but came close to overtaking the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney.
Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor has unabashedly wooed and supported Trump for president since Christie dropped out of the contest, and has left no doubt he would happily be Trump’s running mate or a member of his cabinet. Although Christie has had broad government and criminal justice experience as governor and a former U.S. attorney, he has never served in Congress or held a Washington-based position. Still, for better or worse, he has had plenty of experience negotiating with the New Jersey legislature on spending issues and his agenda.
Jeff Sessions. The Alabama senator and former U.S. attorney is one of the most conservative members of Congress and a natural ally of Trump’s. Session has long led the fight for a balanced budget. And his single-minded opposition to a bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill that would have granted illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship or legal status attracted the attention of Trump, who used Session as an adviser. Sessions was one of the first prominent members of Congress to endorse Trump for president.
Bob Corker. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair and one-time businessman is viewed by many as an attractive and credible vice presidential running mate who would bring stability and political common sense to the Trump ticket. The Tennessee Republican offered to help Trump develop a coherent foreign policy platform, and soon found himself conferring with Trump and his campaign staff. Corker is among the wealthiest members of Congress, which could help him relate to Trump, but could also weight the ticket too heavily towards wealthy men.
Mike Pence. The Indiana governor and former House member is highly popular with religious conservatives and he twice contemplated running for president. While serving in the House, Pence rose to the position of chair of the House Republican Conference. He was a fiscal conservative and staunch opponent of granting illegal immigrants legal status. Pence would clearly add some gravitas to a Trump ticket.
Joni Ernst. The freshman Iowa senator won election by campaigning as a down-home farm girl who castrates pigs and couldn’t wait to get to Washington to cut spending. She not only charmed Iowa voters but won over House and Senate Republican leaders who chose her to deliver the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2015. Ernst delivered a gaffe-free address and went on to become a player in the GOP ranks, occasionally reaching out to Democrats. A former Iowa state senator and Army Reserve and National Guard officer for the past 22 years, Ernst has a resume that would play well on a national ticket.
Tom Cotton. The freshman senator from Arkansas is right out of Republican central casting – a handsome, youthful, well-spoken Harvard Law School graduate and distinguished Army veteran who saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since coming to the Senate, Cotton has played point man for Republicans in opposing the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran. He is considered one of the most hawkish members of the Senate. Asked recently on NBC’s Meet the Press to make a positive case for Trump, Cotton responded that it would be up to the New York businessman himself. However, he said he preferred Trump to Clinton because Trump supports tougher intelligence and law enforcement practices than Clinton to fight ISIS.