By Amrit Singh
On July 21, Donald Trump will cap off the most symbolic week of his young political career, in Cleveland, when he accepts the Republican presidential nomination at the party's National Convention. And at some point between now and then, he will have made the biggest and most symbolic decision of this nascent run as a politician when he selects his vice presidential running mate. Trump sharing the spotlight? It'll have to be a special person.
We discussed the importance of vice presidential picks (and Hillary Clinton's likely choice) last week. Today it's Trump's turn. Before we dive into the names, a quick refresher on why a VP matters: Generally and historically, a vice president is selected for any of three main reasons: a) to help carry a contested "swing" state, b) to help shore up the presidential candidate's bona fides in some key area(s) of expertise or demographics, and c) to be a zealous advocate for the presidential candidate and litigate the case to the fullest, from campaign trail to VP debates.
Usually, the presidential candidate's options are as broad as they'd like them to be: The VP may be a job of questionable political power once in office, but it's a historically high office and honor to hold, a career-maker and not the sort of thing people say no to. But a VP also must stand with and for their president, no matter what that president says. That's a complicated proposition when it comes to Trump, since we know from his TelePrompter-less speeches that he often doesn't know what he's about to say until he says it.
So who will it be? Well, Trump's reality show and beauty pageant background makes this process remarkably transparent, and also remarkably unpredictable. (You could say transparency and unpredictability are the two key ingredients to reality TV ratings success, actually.) On the unpredictability front: Just this week, the Trump Veepstakes narrowed before I even got to write this post. After high-profile appearances and meetings with Trump, respectively, two leading candidates took their names out of consideration (Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst). On the transparency front, Trump's tweeting about all the Veepstakes holders with regularity. Unusual, but then, that's been Trump's bread and butter this year.
So without further ado, here are the likely candidates, from most exciting to most likely.
Chris Christie (governor, New Jersey)
When it comes to being a bulldog litigant who will prosecute the case with zeal and nearly reckless abandon, you cannot get much better than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Remember: He was an actual government litigator as the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and this is the man whose debate-stage takedown of Marco Rubio's robotic repeat-phrases all but ended the Florida senator's 2016 presidential aspirations.) Also, he clearly, clearly wants it. On the flip: With a 26% approval rating in his home state at the moment, Christie likely wouldn't help Trump carry New Jersey, which would be a massive boon to Donald's chances. Also, that approval rating is at least in part a reflection of the Bridgegate scandal that still hovers over him, and would not be an easy thing to campaign around for an entire presidential election season.
Tom Cotton (senator, Arkansas)
This Harvard graduate and military vet is a bright star in the Republican party, and folks are floating his name for a 2020 run. On the flip, he's a first-term senator and hasn't been the most vocal proponent of Trump's brand or persona, even when pushed on the morning talk shows.
Jeff Sessions (senator, Alabama)
Trump's first real ally (and first endorsement) on Capitol Hill was Jeff Sessions, and he and Trump have developed a bond in the time since. Sessions rides for Trump's anti-immigration measures, and the word is that he doesn't have any clearly identifiable presidential aspirations of his own, which would make make him more loyal and, certainly, better at ceding the spotlight to alpha Trump when needed (pretty much all the time). On the flip: The word is that he would prefer to stay in the Senate; he's not as scintillating a campaign trail presence as Trump might like for rally purposes, and he might be too conservative for the ticket's own good, or at least the ticket's ability to woo the moderate "swing" vote.
Mike Pence (governor, Indiana)
Say what you will about Trump, but this much is true: He hasn't been a Republican for too long, and he hasn't been conservative on social issues (like abortion) for too long, either. Those facts would prevent him from consolidating the Republican base like he needs to, and that's why someone like Mike Pence — a longtime Republican office holder (a representative before his present governor post) and a strong social conservative — would be a strong candidate for the job. On the flip:
Newt Gingrich (Former Speaker of the House, Georgia)
The '90s political mastermind and former Speaker of the House would bring Trump an unparalleled political Rolodex and Washington know-how, along with an uncommon political savvy that could pair well with Trump's own intuitive brand of rabble-rousing. On the flip, Newt is a 70-plus-year-old white male, as is Trump, and that's a demographic that Trump's already doing pretty well with. Still, Newt's stature and the apparent good feelings he shared with Trump at a recent campaign rally put Gingrich as the odds-on favorite for the post. Just in case this election wasn't feeling '90s enough for you with the last names of Clinton and Trump in the mix.
Facts Only is a weekly column by REVOLT Chief Political Correspondent Amrit Singh. For more on the election, you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, where he's not quite as transparent or unpredictable as Donald Trump, but not bad overall.