A couple weeks ago, I posted my list of the ten most probable running mates for Hillary Clinton. For the sake of equal coverage, I’ll try and guess the ten most likely running mates for Donald Trump, but I’ve got to say- it ain’t easy. Trump’s decision-making is a bit erratic, driven by vendetta, and often contemptuous of conventional wisdom. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it- it got him the Republican nomination in spite of monumental opposition.
A few guiding philosophies. Trump has signaled that his running mate would be someone who is wiser in the ways of Washington and can be a sort of liaison with Congress. One aide also suggested in May that picking a woman or a minority would be seen as “pandering,” and therefore a white man is likely. (I think that notion is ridiculous, but that’s another matter altogether.) But taking the campaign at its word, this list is a bit light on female and racial minority choices. And so, in a sentence I never thought I’d have to write a year ago, here are what strikes me as the ten most plausible running mates for Donald Trump.
- Bob Corker: Corker has been a loyal Trump lieutenant since it became clear that he would be the nominee. Corker has spent a decade in the Senate, and is the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, shoring up one of Trump’s weaknesses. And they are two of a kind in some ways: Corker was also involved in the real estate business in Tennessee.
- Tom Cotton: A remarkable choice that few are talking about. He may look like a paleo-conservative Jim Halpert, but don’t let that fool you. Cotton won in a landslide against Mark Pryor, who was so well regarded in Arkansas that he ran unopposed in 2008! Cotton served in Iraq, is 6’5″ and went to Harvard, and has an eerie ability to stay on message as evinced in his debates with Pryor. He fits well with both small-government conservatives, religious conservatives, and foreign policy hawks; he was ringleader in the letter Senate Republicans sent to Iran warning them not to trust to a U.S. nuclear deal.
- Rick Scott: The tragic shooting in Orlando has put Scott in the spotlight. He was elected by a minuscule margin in Florida during two bad years for Democrats, and he may not help that much given the wider electorate in presidential years. Like Trump, though, Scott has a background in some shady business dealings. Huffington Post notes that “Scott was best known as a record-setting fraudster whose bilking of Medicare reached cartoon-villain proportions: under his stewardship Columbia/Hospital Corporation of America pleaded guilty to 14 felonies and was forced to pay a $2 billion fraud settlement, the largest in the history of the United States.”
- Newt Gingrich: Another figure who Trump might pick on the basis of 1) loyalty and 2) knowing how Congress works. His reputation as one of the party’s intellectual voices and a deep understanding of win over suburban voters as he did with his Contract with America would be valuable. However, Gingrich has had some scandals over his head surrounding his resignation as speaker and his cheating on his wife while Congress was impeaching Bill Clinton…for lying about cheating on his wife.
- Marsha Blackburn: Another Tennessean possibility for Trump. She’s ignorant as hell (Blackburn believes the earth is cooling, not warming), but she’s still a social conservative with sterling credentials and recently led the House inquiry into Planned Parenthood. Given that social conservatives have not fully warmed up to Trump, Blackburn would be a clear signal that Trump’s recent conclave with evangelical leaders wasn’t mere social gravy.
- Chris Christie: For his first term, at least, Christie was heralded as a remarkably effective governor in New Jersey, projecting a tough persona while often able to work things out in a bipartisan fashion. If Trump wants a veep who will do much of the heavy lifting for him- think of the role Cheney performed for Bush 43- Christie is a likely choice. Moreover, the Donald appreciates loyalty, and since Christie unexpectedly endorsed Trump, he hasn’t backed down.
- Jeff Sessions: Shelby, the junior senator from Alabama, was one of the first major politicians to support Trump’s campaign. Sessions’s career is an education in dog-whistle politics and The Donald could learn a lot from him about how to signal things to white voters without appearing overtly racist.
- John Kasich: Trump’s relationship with the other major competitor in the primaries, Ted Cruz, is in the toilet after Trump went after Cruz’s father for allegedly having a role in the JFK assassination and intimating he had damning information about his wife. Yet the relationship between Kasich and Trump was strangely cordial by Trumpian standards; I think the worst of it was some unkind tweets about Kasich’s table manners. The fact is that Trump probably needs someone like Kasich who can probably secure Ohio and maybe have spillover appeal in Pennsylvania. But Kasich’s campaign was based on civility and even a certain amount of kindness and generosity. Will he hold his nose and campaign with Trump?
- Catherine McMorris-Rodgers: This is one more name that I’m surprised more people aren’t mentioning. McMorris-Rodgers is genuinely concerned with widening the GOP tent and getting more voters- particularly younger women- on board. She’s the only woman in GOP House leadership and represents eastern Washington state. If he wants someone to run interference with Congress and expand the party’s base, this would be a smart pick. If you want suburban soccer moms to even consider Trump, you’d need someone like her.
- Scott Brown: If Trump is serious about making a play for white males in the Northeast, Brown could be a real asset. Brown famously won the open seat for Ted Kennedy’s spot, and his ideological fuzziness mirrors Trump’s in some way. The problem is that Brown was defeated by Elizabeth Warren and Jeanne Shaheen within the span of two years, and if there’s one thing The Donald holds in contempt, it’s losing.
What do you think? Did I miss anyone?
Here’s a fun fact, by the way. There has never been a person on a Republican ticket who was both 1) born in, and 2) held office in the South. Some were born in the South but didn’t hold office there, like Eisenhower, whose family moved to Kansas when he was young. Others held office in the South, but were born elsewhere, like the Bushes. (On a technicality, I’m disqualifying Andrew Johnson, who wasn’t really a Republican and at any rate, in 1864, the Republicans momentarily re-branded themselves as the Union Party.) If chosen, Blackburn, Corker, Shelby, and Sessions would be the first true Southerner on a Republican ticket. (Gingrich, though he held office in Georgia, was born in Pennsylvania, and Rick Scott was born in Illinois.)