Monday, August 31, 2015

Who Could Be Donald Trump's Running Mate?

Donald Trump with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
It's now September, and Donald Trump is still leading in the polls.  For those of us who have assumed (incorrectly) that Mr. Trump would slip away like so many different Republican candidates did before him in 2012 (Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann all led the field at one point, lest we forget), it's worth at least exploring the thing we aren't supposed to speak of: what if this is for real?  If Donald Trump were Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush with these poll numbers, we'd be talking about how he already has the nomination locked up.  There's still time, of course, for Trump to fade-this sort of bump can't last forever, and I suspect that more seasoned polls like Rubio, Bush, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are sitting around working on GOTV efforts right now that Trump may not be able to drum up because he doesn't have the team, but let's for a second think about if Donald Trump is the nominee, and more importantly what this would mean as he picks a VP pick.

A lot of other sites have talked about this in an abstract sort of way, or joked about inanimate objects that might run with Trump, but I'm going to try and look at this seriously.  Trump has bruised a lot of egos on his way through the primaries, and it's not for nothing that people like Rubio, Bush, and Kasich almost certainly would turn down the second spot to Trump even if they might consider it from each other.  As a result, I'm going to stick to only candidates that I see as being serious contenders for Trump's ticket, as well as people that I think might actually accept.  Below are the top five:

Honorable Mentions: I know that the likes of Mark Cuban and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura have both been publicly open about running with Trump, but Cuban doesn't necessarily have conservative enough beliefs on a number of issues to make it through the convention (where you don't technically get a free flag on who is your running mate), and Ventura has never been a Republican.  I also know that former Rep. Allen King's name has been bandied about, but I doubt Trump would go for a one-term representative who could so easily be called a "loser."  Finally, Trump has stated he'd love to run with Oprah Winfrey, but it's impossible to imagine that Ms. Winfrey, who has spent decades building up a brand of prestige, trust, and liberal credentials would associate with Trump's campaign in any way, shape, or form.

5. Rep. Steve King (IA)

I'm genuinely surprised that King hasn't gotten behind Trump yet, considering that he is perhaps the most conservative voice in the fight against immigration in the U.S. House and Trump's views have made immigration a centerpiece of the campaign, as well as moved the party further to the right than I think it wanted to go.  This is certainly King's moment in his career to try and make something happen on the issue, and I suspect he'll be out on Team Trump if the businessman's numbers are this good by the beginning of October.  King's position in the first-in-the-nation caucus could actually be a huge boon for Trump, who would gain from his GOTV machine.  Plus, he's a sitting congressman which does carry with it some bit of prestige, even if he's generally grouped with Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert.

4. Ann Coulter (R-CT)

Though technically born in New York, Coulter actually resides in Connecticut and has been considered for the nomination for the Republicans in the Nutmeg State before.  The lightning rod conservative is a major figure in the Republican Party, and while she's hardly what one would consider an appropriate choice for the VP slot, is Trump really appropriate for the White House?  Coulter matches Trump's "I don't give a damn" style attitude, has been a ferociously strong supporter of him from the get-go, is a non-politician which goes with Trump's appeal, and would actually be an interesting debate partner for him considering that she's willing to throw all decorum to the wind in order to emerge victorious.  One assumes that she appeals to the same sort of Republicans that Trump appeals to as well; I don't think this is entirely far-fetched, quite frankly.

Sen. Jeff Sessions
3. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

Perhaps the most surprising candidate on this list, considering that he's a longtime U.S. Senator and former Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions has actually been pretty warm to Trump's campaign and introduced him recently at an event in Alabama, and many feel he may endorse him before the race is done.  Sessions would be an interesting addition to the ticket not only because he's inarguably the most experienced person on this list, but also because he has actual connections on Capitol Hill and could help a Trump administration get something done.  There's also the fact, and Sessions is aware of this, that if Trump gets involved in an impeachable scandal (not out of the question, and probably pretty close to a likelihood), he's a senator that the Senate could be fine with holding a couple of years in the White House if need be.  All senators look in the mirror and see a president, after all, and while Jeff Sessions has never been someone that was close to the White House, it would be foolish to assume he hasn't thought about it before.

2. Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK)

The question is does Donald Trump see in Sarah Palin an easy way to brandish his conservative credentials and gain a wider swath of Republican Tea Partiers, or does he actually see in her someone that could be a partner on the campaign trail and in a hypothetical White House?  The answer will depend on what position she takes on this list.  Despite her weird aversions to running for public office since her resignation in Alaska in 2009, don't doubt that Palin hasn't thought about what it would have meant to her career if John McCain had won in 2008, and I suspect that she would be very open to this idea even if a Trump/Palin ticket is the type that gives Reince Priebus ulcers at night.

1. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

At this point Sen. Ted Cruz is in a weirdly strong position within the Republican Party.  He's not polling badly (he is in fifth place according to Real Clear Politics), and he has done that without alienating any Trump voters.  Right now Cruz is playing the waiting game-if Trump implodes, he's in the best position to pick up his voters on the campaign trail, but if he doesn't implode, he is one of the only candidates who hasn't badmouthed Trump and has actually taken his lead on a number of different issues.  Cruz could play it cool, see if Trump takes Iowa and New Hampshire, and if he does make a quick endorsement in hopes of making it to the bottom of the ticket.  At only 45, it's not like he's in his last election here and could wait eight years after a Trump presidency to make his play at the White House again.

And there you have it-my thoughts on who might be a good match for Donald Trump?  Do you have any (let's try to keep it to legitimate ones and not joke ones)?  Share in the comments if you do!

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