Donald Trump’s victories in a series of northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states over the past two weeks coupled with his lead on the eve of Tuesday’s Indiana’s primary have made one thing clear: He is the unquestioned favorite for the Republican presidential nomination.
Which raises the question: Who is Trump going to pick as his vice presidential nominee?
The short answer: No one knows. Trump relishes being unpredictable, so trying to game out how this most unconventional of politicians will make up his mind is a bit of a guessing game. Add to that the fact that Trump’s inner circle remains, largely, devoid of establishment types, and you quickly get into a situation where the people talking don’t know much and the people who do know aren’t talking.
Trump has been open about the lack of thought he has put into the process. “I just don’t want to think about it right now,” he said of the veepstakes following his five-state sweep six days ago.
That has never stopped me before, though — and it won’t stop me now! Below are the five people most likely to be Trump’s second in command, ranked in the order of likelihood. Caveat: These rankings can and will change.
5. Marco Rubio: Yes, there was that whole “Little Marco” thing. But if Ben Carson can make peace with Trump after the business mogul drew a parallel between the former pediatric neurosurgeon and a child molester, then anything can happen. Rubio is clearly searching for a next step in his political career, and although most insiders question whether he would accept the vice-presidential nomination, it’s still hard to imagine anyone turning it down. Rubio could help Trump with outreach to establishment Republicans and in Florida. As a Cuban American, he also might be able to blunt some of Trump’s sharpest edges on immigration and avoid an electoral disaster in the Hispanic community.
4. John Kasich: Trump has gone on offense against “1-for-41 Kasich” of late, but in general, these two have been on (relatively) friendly terms throughout the race. The Ohio governor would represent an olive branch — of sorts — from Trump to the establishment. He also has the sort of résumé (member of Congress, Midwestern governor) that should appeal to Trump. And Kasich, who is in the middle of his second term, might find the chance at a vice-presidential nomination — even if it meant sharing a ticket with Trump — impossible to resist.
3. Joni Ernst: The Republican senator from Iowa emerged as a breakout star of the 2014 midterm campaign with her plainspoken populism. Ernst, like many female Republican politicians, has been critical of Trump’s comments about women, which could either appeal to him or disqualify Ernst entirely. If Trump wanted to make a turning-over-a-new-leaf pick, Ernst would make a ton of sense. If he thinks that “being Trump” is the essence of his appeal, he might look askance at anyone who has crossed him. Ernst has proven she is a gifted communicator and someone who might help sell Trump to the Midwestern voters he badly needs if he wants to be competitive with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
2. Rick Scott: The Florida governor wrote a Facebook post in the wake of Trump’s primary sweep last week urging the party to rally behind the real estate mogul. “The Republican leaders in Washington did not choose him, but the Republican voters across America did choose him,” Scott wrote. “The voters have spoken.” Scott has been consistently supportive of Trump for months, endorsing him as soon as Trump won the Sunshine State in early March. Scott’s profile is also is probably appealing to Trump — a wealthy businessman who ran against and beat the Republican establishment to get elected governor. Plus, he’s from a big swing state.
1. Chris Christie: “I think Chris Christie is fantastic,” Trump said following his April 26 primary victories as the New Jersey governor (and his wife) stood just behind him onstage. No one has risked more with his support for Trump than Christie, who has been mocked and dismissed by the GOP establishment for the decision. Personality-wise, Christie and Trump seem to be an obvious match. And Trump has said before that he would want a politician as his running mate. From a geographic/ideological standpoint, Christie wouldn’t add a ton to the Trump ticket. But does Trump care?