Trump’s rumored VP shortlist, explained


VANDALIA, OHIO – NOVEMBER 07: Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate JD Vance greet supporters during the rally at the Dayton International Airport on November 7, 2022 in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump campaigned at the rally for Ohio Republican candidates including Republican candidate for U.S. Senate JD Vance, who is running in a tight race against Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump could soon make an announcement about his pick for vice president, a choice that could prove to be uniquely consequential this cycle. 

In past elections, a nominee’s running mate has been closely watched for a variety of reasons. They may bring experience to balance a nominee’s lack of it (think Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden), or they may appeal to a region or demographic that the nominee would like to reach (think Donald Trump’s pick of Mike Pence), or they may amplify a presidential campaign’s message (think Bill Clinton with Al Gore).

The importance of the VP can be overstated, with researchers finding that they typically affect general election outcomes only if they’re extremely popular or polarizing. But as Vox’s Andrew Prokop has explained, Trump’s choice could have particular significance since they may have to step in given his age and legal baggage. Additionally, there are pressing questions about whether the VP Trump names would stand up to him — like Pence did — if he tries to challenge the democratic transfer of office again. 

Increasingly, Trump has hinted that he could announce his decision shortly. He recently told reporters he had his choice set “in my mind,” and that the person would “most likely” be in the audience for his Thursday debate with Biden.

Thus far, sources say his top contenders include Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, who famously criticized the former president and then changed course, as well as presidential rivals turned allies Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and North Dakota Gov. Doug Bergum. A number of other names have also been floated, everyone from  Trump’s former HUD Secretary Ben Carson to House Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Although the VP choice may be a moot point for many voters, particularly given how well Trump is known, each of these options would bring something slightly different to the ticket. With the caveat that other names may still come out, here’s what we know about the potential running mates Trump is considering and what they have to offer.

Doug Burgum

Who is he? Burgum, 67, is North Dakota’s current governor, a former 2024 presidential candidate, and a businessman. He previously founded a successful software company that he went on to sell to Microsoft for $1.1 billion, and now has an estimated net worth of roughly $100 million, according to Forbes. As governor, he’s known for supporting the state’s production of fossil fuels and for signing multiple anti-trans bills into law. 

Like several of the people on this list, Burgum has criticized Trump in the past and since changed his tune. He also previously said that Biden won the 2020 election, though he hasn’t directly condemned Trump’s role in January 6 riot. 

What’s the case for him? Burgum has said that he can bring his business expertise and outsider mentality to the ticket, both qualities that Trump has touted about himself. He’s also got a substantial personal fortune that he can contribute to the race. And he’s already taken to the airwaves as a Trump sycophant in an apparent attempt to demonstrate his loyalty. “This guy is tireless, he’s committed, he’s smart, he’s funny. He’s nothing like he’s portrayed in the press,” Burgum said in a recent Fox News appearance

Vance, mid-conversation, gestures with his hands. He wears a blue tie and gray suit. He sits in front of an ornately designed window. On the table in front of him sits a coffee cup that reads “Meet the Press.”J.D. Vance

Who is he? Vance, 39, is a first-term Ohio senator, onetime Trump opponent, and now vocal Trump supporter. He’s also known as the author of Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir that chronicled his experience growing up in a working-class family in the Midwest. 

What’s the case for him? Vance would fully embrace the MAGA agenda as one of Trump’s ardent defenders, as well as add a younger perspective. He would also bring his brief experience in the Senate and some business expertise from his background working in venture capital. Similar to others on this list, he’s a pick that could resonate with the base.

Tim Scott smiles and waves, wearing a navy suit and red tie. Blue curtains hang from the walls behind him.

Tim Scott

Who is he? A three-term, relatively conservative South Carolina senator, Scott, 58, is also the only Black Republican serving in the upper chamber. Scott is known for his own 2024 presidential run, which floundered early on, and his efforts to find a compromise on police reform in Congress. He previously framed much of his candidacy around pushing back against Democrats’ views on race, citing his own success as negating the idea that Black Americans are disadvantaged by systemic racism.

What’s the case for him? Scott is a religious social conservative with political views broadly in line with Trump’s, though his establishment credentials — including refusing to contest the 2020 election results — might assuage some Republicans wary of the former president. Trump has praised Scott, noting that he told the South Carolina lawmaker, “You’re a much better candidate for me than you are for yourself.” Choosing Scott could also be an attempt by the Trump campaign to cement the gains that it made in 2020 with a small number of Black voters.

Marco Rubio

Who is he? Rubio, 53, is a three-term Florida senator and former presidential candidate. He entered Congress as a Tea Party conservative, but framed himself as more of a “moderate” option when he unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016. Prior to serving in the Senate, he also served in the Florida House of Representatives. Across these roles, Rubio has focused on foreign policy as well as immigration reform. 

In the past, Rubio has criticized Trump and dubbed him a “con artist,” but in recent years he’s become an ally and adviser. 

What’s the case for him? Rubio could bring legislative expertise in the Senate as well as the relationships he’s built, providing policy chops that Trump lacks on issues like the Ukraine war. 

He’d offer a different generational perspective as well as Latino representation, as a Cuban American. In 2020, Trump made some marginal gains with Latino voters in Florida and Texas, and choosing Rubio could potentially help him reach more members of this community. 

Byron Donalds

Who is he? Donalds, 45, is a two-term House lawmaker from Florida and was a state representative for a few terms before that. Donalds is one of just a handful of Black Republican members currently in Congress and has described himself as “​​everything the fake news media says doesn’t exist: a Trump supporting, liberty loving, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment black man.” He was recently criticized for comments he made that suggested that Black families were were more “together” during the Jim Crow era, when policies segregated white and Black Americans.

What’s the case for him? Donalds could contribute the legislative experience he’s garnered and add fresh energy to the ticket as a conservative rising star. He could also increase representation on the ticket as the campaign continues to work on its appeal to Black voters. 

Elise Stefanik

Who is she? Stefanik, 39, is a five-term House Representative and member of House Republican leadership. Once more moderate, she’s pivoted hard to the right in recent years after her upstate New York district swung in favor of Trump. Stefanik has raised her profile in congressional hearings pushing back against Trump’s impeachment and in a recent appearance questioning elite university presidents about antisemitism on campus. She’s also long advocated for growing Republican women’s representation in Congress and backed fundraising and recruitment initiatives to do so. 

What’s the case for her? Stefanik has had about a decade of legislative experience and has increasingly established herself as a prominent conservative voice who could potentially energize base voters. She’s signaled staunch fealty to Trump and would bring gender and age diversity to the ticket, along with strong rhetorical skills.

Her stated views are also pretty much consistent with Trump’s. Stefanik was among the House Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results and has embraced many of the same extreme positions as the former president on issues like immigration.

Ben Carson

Who is he? Carson, 72, is the former HUD Secretary and a renowned neurosurgeon. Carson is perhaps best known for performing the first successful procedure to separate conjoined twins. He also ran for the presidency in 2016 and went on to back Trump after dropping out. As HUD Secretary, Carson was criticized for lacking the housing policy expertise needed for the gig, and later called for budget cuts that would have gutted the work the agency was doing on issues like affordable housing.  

What’s the case for him? Carson is known for his medical expertise and more even-keeled persona, which could serve as a complement to Trump. The Trump campaign also saw marginal gains with Black voters, particularly men, in 2020 and Carson could increase representation and outreach to build on these wins.

Update, June 26, 6 pm ET: This story was originally published on February 9 and has been updated to include new reports of candidates on Trump’s vice-presidential list.

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