Who Will Be Donald Trump’s VP Pick?

The pundit class is saying it’s over. Donald Trump has been anointed “The Presumptive.” Thanks to his victory this week in the New Hampshire primary—a state in which his 2024 archrival, Nikki Haley, placed much of her political capital—Trump trumped her.

I’d contend that Haley, however, had a more-than-respectable second-place showing. Going head-to-head with an ex-prez, and then nipping his heels by only 10 or 11 percentage points—when many had said he’d crush it—is nothing to shake a stick at. In many towns and townships, she stuck it to him.

That said, in the clear-eyed light of morning, the math is the math. Trump is going to take Nevada next. And then he’ll likely wipe up in South Carolina, Haley’s home state. South Carolinians could rally around their favorite daughter, but it’s really Trump-friendly country, and now that he’s been threatened, he’s going to cut the dogs off the chains. It should all be over but the shouting. Which is to say: The 2024 GOP presidential nomination is Trump’s to lose. (In my wildest imaginings, I sometimes get a sense that with all of his shambolic rambling—on the campaign trail and in the courthouse—he could be one loose screw away from sinking his own boat. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.)

To Nikki Haley’s credit, she is finally punching him directly in the face, challenging his mental competency—and she’s getting under his skin. She’ll keep banging the drum about trying to get him to agree to debate her, and, well, maybe he’ll blow his chance to wrap it up—and we’ll be on to Super Tuesday. But: highly unlikely.

So if you’re playing the ponies, like many of us in this quadrennial race, it makes sense to turn your attention now to the next key contest: the veepstakes.

Who will Trump choose to be his running mate? The question is not an idle or capricious one.

The reason is that the coming election will be among the most important in American history. And since we will have managed to nominate two guys too old to be a law-enforcing park ranger (and whom more than half of the electorate don’t think should be the two parties’ nominees in the first place), the presidential timbre of Trump and Biden’s VPs actually matters—in actuarial terms. Mr. or Ms. number two, depending on the Big Guy’s health (or felony conviction), may not unreasonably be called upon to serve as Commander in Chief.

We know that President Joe Biden is locked in with Kamala Harris as his pick for a second term. Any noise you hear to the contrary, just tune it out. Ain’t gonna happen. So some of the drama and suspense in the coming weeks or months (and, oh, how the press and the political class love their drama during the long slog of the primary season!) will involve the parlor game surrounding who Trump will select as his vice presidential nominee.

There’s not a lot of history or evidence to suggest that vice presidential picks are particularly important to voters’ ultimate decision. But I think there is certainly a case to be made that the decision is much more significant when the presidential nominees are eight decades old. So let’s assess the field of those most likely to get the Republican nod for the number two slot.

Given his flair for the dramatic, Trump would normally be inclined to throw a curveball. And yet this week he suggested, counterintuitively, that his choice might not be a shocker at all: “People won’t be that surprised.”

That could be because he actually has someone in mind who is on everyone’s list. Or that he just thinks he might be inclined toward a conventional choice. Or, in classic Trump fashion, that he is engaging in willful misdirection, a maneuver to make the choice even more surprising later on. (Or, of course, he could be intending to choose a particular partner—and then might completely change his reliably whimsical mind in a month’s time.)

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