© 2024 KUAF
NPR Affiliate since 1985
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Affected by May 26 tornadoes? Find relief resources here.

The Veepstakes is on. Here are 10 Republicans Trump could pick to be his running mate

Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference at Trump Tower, Friday, May 31, in New York.
Julia Nikhinson/AP
/
AP
Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference at Trump Tower, Friday, May 31, in New York.

In a past life, former President Donald Trump hosted the reality competition, “The Apprentice.” Now, he’s hiring for a new position: his running mate.

With Trump as the de facto GOP nominee for the 2024 general election, numerous Republicans have been vying to join forces with him and run together against the Democratic ticket, President Biden and Vice President Harris.

And Trump has made his vice presidential nominee selection process much like a televised contest between rising stars and seasoned politicians alike who are trying to demonstrate their loyalty. Several contenders, including South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have recently appeared on cable news shows singing Trump’s praises.

“They’re all out there campaigning,” Trump said on Spectrum News 1 Wisconsin in May. “It might actually be more effective this way because, you know, every one of them thinks they could be chosen, which I guess possibly is so.”

A lot hangs in the balance on who Trump chooses: His running mate could help shape the future of the MAGA movement. And, the vice president nominee could woo voters who lean moderate and are skeptical of Trump, along with other voting blocs Trump is looking to tap into.

But for Trump, who has said he’ll announce his pick during the Republican National Convention that’s being held from July 15-18, his criteria is straightforward: He wants a supporter loyal to his ways, and someone who can help him win the race.

So who are the top contenders?

Tim Scott

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gestures to supporters as Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) looks on during an election night watch party at the State Fairgrounds on February 24 in Columbia, S.C.
Win McNamee / Getty Images North America
/
Getty Images North America
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gestures to supporters as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., looks on during an election night watch party at the State Fairgrounds on Feb. 24 in Columbia, S.C.

Tim Scott loves Trump. He told Trump that himself this January, and ever since the South Carolina senator dropped out of the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Scott’s loyalty to Trump has only grown stronger. 

Tea Party Republicans quickly identified Scott as a rising star in the GOP back in 2010, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for South Carolina’s 1st district. In 2013, he was appointed by former Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as the state’s junior senator, making him the only Black Republican in the Senate.

Scott has advised Trump over the years regarding racial justice, particularly in the aftermath of white nationalist rallies that took place in Virginia in 2017.

  • Pros: Scott espouses conservative Christian values while also leading his party on race issues. He’s also been one of Trump’s loudest cheerleaders, including making his way to Trump’s hush money trial in New York.
  • Cons: Scott’s allegiance to Trump is unconditional, and that extends to Scott insisting Trump and rioters were not responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection, and refusing to say whether he’d accept the 2024 election results. That stance could alienate more moderate Republicans who disapprove of Trump’s handling of the 2020 election. 

Kristi Noem

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem at a campaign rally Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio.
Jeff Dean / AP
/
AP
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump shakes hands with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem at a campaign rally on March 16 in Vandalia, Ohio.

Noem, a small business owner helping run her family farm in South Dakota, moved into politics in 2006 when she was elected as a state House representative. Just four years later, she headed to Washington, D.C., when she won the state's at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is in her second term as South Dakota’s governor.

While Noem called for a state lockdown during the start of the pandemic, she moved to a looser stance on social distancing and quickly became a media darling for conservative outlets. She has also passed bills that restrict gender-affirming treatment and are seen as anti-LGBTQ, all of which garnered her praise from conservatives.

  • Pros: Point blank, Noem is a woman, and in particular, a woman who comes from a Christian family of farmers. Seeing that Republicans are struggling in their messaging on reproductive rights and it led to major losses for the party during the 2022 midterm elections, Noem could help deliver a clearer message on abortion.
  • Cons: A series of controversies surrounding Noem seems to be exponentially reducing her chances of being Trump’s running mate. She said earlier this year that Native tribes in South Dakota benefit from the drug cartel industry, leading her to be banned from all nine reservations in the state. Noem additionally wrote about having met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in her upcoming memoir, which she then asked her publisher to retract from the final copy. And to top it off, she wrote in the memoir about killing her family dog, which drew particular scorn.
  • Advisers in Republican circles say the puppy incident alone was enough to tank her prospects. But Trump has not publicly ruled out Noem over these controversies: “She’s been there for us for a long time … She’s loyal, she’s great,” Trump said soon after the dog story came public. “She had a bad week. We all have bad weeks,” Trump said.

Elise Stefanik

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) joins Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally on January 19, 2024 in Concord, N.H.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images North America
/
Getty Images North America
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., joins Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally on Jan. 19 in Concord, N.H.

One of the leading conservatives of her generation, Elise Stefanik started off in politics as a newly minted Harvard grad working for President George W. Bush’s administration. She was on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign team in 2012, and Paul Ryan mentored her at one point in her career — all of which is to say, in one lifetime, she was a moderate conservative. She even criticized Trump when the leaked "Access Hollywood" tape came out in 2016, criticizing him for his “inappropriate, offensive comments.” 

That makes how quickly she shed that identity and ascended into Trump’s circle all the more remarkable. She spoke strongly in defense of Trump during the 2019 impeachment hearings against him. Two years later, Stefanik became chair of the House Republican Conference in 2021 after Liz Cheney was ousted from that post. She has since been at the forefront of congressional hearings over antisemitism on college campuses, during which she grilled the presidents of University of Pennsylvania and Harvard last December.

  • Pros: She’s one of the party’s strongest leaders, she has the messaging that the party needs, and, not to mention, she’s a millennial and a woman. Republicans are in dire need of that kind of leadership — especially when it comes to abortion and bringing younger voters into the fold.
  • Cons: Stefanik’s rapid political transformation is an eyebrow raiser that’s led some to question her motivations for that shift. Stefanik has reacted strongly to that insinuation, including when it came up in a recent interview on "Fox News Sunday." She’s also from New York, and won’t be able to carry the state for Trump and boost any lead over Biden.

Doug Burgum

Kathryn Burgum aplauds as her husband Republican Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum shakes hands with former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump during a Caucus Night watch party in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 8.
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP
Kathryn Burgum aplauds as her husband, Republican Gov. of North Dakota Doug Burgum, shakes hands with former President Donald Trump during a caucus night watch party in Las Vegas on Feb. 8.

The governor of North Dakota first made it big as the head of tech company Great Plains Software, which he later sold to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in stock in 2001. He continued to amass a large fortune through his real estate development firm and a software venture capital group, before winning the governor’s race in 2016 on an anti-establishment message.

He made a short-lived bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but since dropping out last December, he’s been a top supporter for Trump.

  • Pros: Burgum is very wealthy. The allure of political funding alone is enough for Trump to seriously consider him as a running mate.
  • Cons: Burgum doesn’t have the kind of household name recognition to complement Trump, or even make anti-Trump Republicans feel better about casting a vote for a Trump-Burgum ticket. Plus, like Noem in South Dakota, North Dakota is a lock for Trump which isn't going to be much help in crucial swing states.

Byron Donalds

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) shakes hands with  former U.S. President Donald Trump during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown on June 30, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pa.
Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images North America
/
Getty Images North America
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., shakes hands with former President Donald Trump during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit on June 30, 2023, in Philadelphia.

The Florida congressman may only be a two-term newcomer, but Trump is keenly aware of Donalds’ star power, as he has become a media regular advocating for Trump’s cause. Donalds, who is a Black evangelical Christian, had been fighting for education reform early on, along with wife Erika Donalds, in the push to implement book bans and expand tax-funded charter schools.

  • Pros: Donalds would add much-needed diversity to Trump’s ticket. He’s on top of debates over curriculum in schools, which is a motivating issue — albeit not the top one — for Republican voters.
  • Cons: He lacks national leadership experience, though not for a lack of trying: Donalds was in the running to be House speaker last January and October, but failed to pull enough votes.

JD Vance

Former President Donald Trump listens to then-Republican US Senate candidate, J.D. Vance speak on stage during a campaign rally, on the eve of the US midterm elections, in Vandalia, Ohio, on November 7, 2022.
Megan Jelinger / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP
Former President Donald Trump listens to then-Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance speak on stage during a campaign rally, on the eve of the midterm elections, in Vandalia, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2022.

The Ohio junior senator came to the scene nationally when his memoir Hillbilly Elegy recounting growing up in the Rust Belt came out in 2016. Since then, Vance, who in a past life was a venture capitalist, has offered his vision of anti-monopoly populist economics. He’s also warmed up to Trump, after having called himself a Never Trumper. Vance has been seen lobbying top dogs in Silicon Valley on behalf of Trump, and is just one of many loyal supporters having made the trek to his hush money trial in New York. 

  • Pros: His populist, Rust Belt origins could help motivate uneducated white voters, who historically turn out in relatively low numbers, to head to voting booths for Trump. He’s also a valued ally for Trump in the Senate.
  • Cons: He doesn’t add much diversity to a hypothetical ticket, nor does he come from a battleground state — at least, anymore. Vance, who is strongly anti-abortion, faced a major loss after Ohioans voted to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution, showing his weak spot on an issue that Republicans have struggled over.

Kari Lake

Senate candidate and former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake signs books prior to a rally held by former US President and 2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, at Ted Hendricks Stadium at Henry Milander Park in Hialeah, Florida, on November 8, 2023.
Ricardo Arduengo / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP
Senate candidate and former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake signs books prior to a rally held by former US President and 2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, at Ted Hendricks Stadium at Henry Milander Park in Hialeah, Florida, on November 8, 2023.

The former TV news anchor with more than three decades of experience made the switch to politics in 2021 after becoming increasingly radicalized and disillusioned by the American media climate. She came out blazing as a supporter of Trump early on after the 2020 election, and became a known quantity among far-right circles that spread election conspiracy theories and were connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Lake narrowly lost against Democrat Katie Hobbs in the Arizona governor’s race in 2022, but has continued to contest that result even as she’s running for the Senate this year.

  • Pros: Lake matches Trump’s bullish and bold energy. Not only that, she aligns with Trump on their far-right agendas, and was one of Trump’s strongest backers when he first promulgated election denial theories. Plus, she’s in a battleground state. It’s too early to tell if her stance on abortion would help or harm Trump’s chances of winning, should he pick her as his running mate.
  • Cons: Though Lake lost the governor’s race with a razor-thin margin of just under one percentage point, at the end of the day, Lake doesn’t have a winning track record when it comes to elections. Much of that is because Lake’s politics is inflammatory, her public persona is divisive, and surely won’t attract moderate voters that Trump needs to bring into the fold. And he can’t afford to have a losing running mate.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

President Donald Trump, smiles as then-press secretary, now Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders speaks to supporters at a rally where Trump formally announced his 2020 re-election bid Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla
John Raoux / AP
/
AP
President Donald Trump smiles as then-press secretary, now-Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to supporters at a rally where Trump formally announced his 2020 reelection bid, on June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla.

Sanders is no political novice: She began working for her dad’s unsuccessful Senate race in 1992 as a 9-year-old stuffing envelopes for his campaign before catapulting into political consulting for high profile Republicans, including for Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton when he ran for that post. She was the third woman in U.S. history to serve as press secretary under Trump, a tenure which was marred by a rocky relationship with many reporters. But Trump speaks highly of Sanders, and endorsed her successful 2022 bid to the governor’s seat for Arkansas. 

  • Pros: A young woman who’s respected among her party colleagues and knows the intimate workings of the Trump administration — what more could he ask for?
  • Cons: Even though Sanders is experienced in politics, the only proven track record in elected office that she has to show is winning the governor’s race in 2022. On top of that, Arkansas doesn’t help Trump in the presidential race, and she’s not likely to help win over moderates.

Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks as former President Donald Trump listens at a campaign rally at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Miami.
Rebecca Blackwell / AP
/
AP
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks as former President Donald Trump listens at a campaign rally at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition on Nov. 6, 2022, in Miami.

When Florida Sen. Marco Rubio first ran for his post in 2010, the son of Cuban immigrants was an underdog, making his win all the more exciting for the Republican base. He ran for president in 2016, during which he had heated exchanges with Trump on the debate stage. But the pair, once rivals, are now friends: Rubio has become an ally and the occasional adviser to Trump.

  • Pros: Rubio has always been strong on foreign policy, and with wars in both Ukraine and Israel ongoing, his traditional hawkishness and anti-Putin record could serve Trump well. He's also experienced and well-known nationally, two things that help Trump appeal broadly. He can appeal to Latino voters, a bloc the Trump campaign is heavily courting — and one that historically has voted for Democrats.
  • Cons: Many conservatives welcomed Rubio warmly when he first joined the Senate, with high hopes for what he could accomplish. But despite having been in the Senate for more than a decade, he frankly has not delivered the degree of star power that the party has expected of him. He doesn’t have a lot of known policy wins under his belt — except his fight against Daylight Savings Time. He also comes from Trump’s adopted home state, which doesn’t bring a whole lot of new voters to the table. Trump has won Florida twice already and is expected to do so again.

Nikki Haley

Then-President Donald Trump shakes hands with Nikki Haley, then the United States Ambassador to the United Nations in the Oval office of the White House on October 9, 2018 in Washington, DC.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images / AFP
/
AFP
Then-President Donald Trump shakes hands with Nikki Haley, then the United States Ambassador to the United Nations in the Oval office of the White House on October 9, 2018 in Washington, DC.

The former U.N. ambassador and former governor of South Carolina was Trump’s strongest opponent in the primaries. During her presidential bid, she touted traditional conservatism as an alternative to some of Trump’s MAGA policies, making her an enticing pick to independents and a sliver of Republicans who refuse to vote for Trump. But Haley dropped out of the race after a series of losses in the primaries, including in her home state. She did not endorse Trump or indicate if she would vote for him when she ended her run in early March, though Haley said late May that she would vote for him.

  • Pros: The former U.N. ambassador and former governor of South Carolina is the first woman to lead her state. She was also Trump’s strongest opponent in the primaries, which is why we have to put her on this list. She’s an experienced debater and has exceptional leadership experience internationally and domestically, and in a state that recently has had reckonings over race — a topic that Trump needs help on. That Haley would be on the ticket would compensate for Trump’s divisive personality, which has turned reliable conservatives away from him.
  • Cons: The primaries might have created too much bad blood between Trump and Haley for them to mesh well as a duo. They made harsh jabs at each other on the campaign trail, which included Trump calling Haley a “birdbrain.” On top of that, it took Haley nearly three months to make a formal public endorsement for Trump — which is longer than what he’s used to. And, Trump publicly said they would never run together.

That being said, don’t be surprised if Haley is in Trump’s administration — should he win. He said that he believes she’d be “on our team in some form.”

Copyright 2024 NPR

Jeongyoon Han
[Copyright 2024 NPR]