While it would seem presumptuous to announce one’s running mates before the presidential balloting that does not apply to Donald Trump, the all but officially confirmed GOP nominee,
Nominees typically have a large supporting cast from which to choose, but there has never been a candidate quite like Donald Trump.
Given his inclination to break all the rules in favor of shock value and an insatiable appetite for headlines, Trump may want to spill the beans on his choice even before the convention.
However saying now who he will pick would take away from the pre-convention buzz, and the Trump campaign has fed on drama. So rampant speculation serves that purpose best, especially since the prospect of a bruising floor fight and Trump’s threat to bolt the party if he is denied the nomination has all but disappeared.
Furthermore, while the choice of a running mate could be more important in a hotly contested election especially if it is a bad one (see Sarah Palin and Thomas Eagleton who the losing Democratic candidate, George McGovern, was forced to replace in 1972), they are rarely decisive factors.
An exception was John F. Kennedys’ tapping of Lyndon Johnson in 1960 to secure Texas’s crucial electoral votes which, combined with those of Illinois, gave the election to JFK over Nixon by a margin of 0.1% in what still is the closest race of the past century.
The customary approach to selecting Vice Presidents calls for balancing the ticket with someone who can strengthen it while alienating the fewest voters.
That may not be an easy task given Trump’s super-sized ego which can admit no weaknesses.
It is also complicated by the fact that those most qualified for the job—which stands one tick away from assuming the presidency —may have competing ambitions that Trump could not tolerate.
And there are other factors.
Having been unsparing in the insults heaped upon his fellow Republicans including most of his erstwhile opponents, some of those fences may no longer be mendable.
Among the more marketable survivors, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz may fall into that category, although Rubio has been saying he is ready overlook the slams. Trump gave disparaging nicknames to each: “Low Energy Jeb,”, “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted.”
Florida with 29 electoral votes makes it a big prize. But Rubio, expected to be its favorite son, was trounced by Trump in that primary and the Bushes may be irreconcilable.
Trump will not need his most formidable adversary, Ted Cruz, to win deep Red Texas which, with 38 electoral votes, has the second highest mother lode after California. But Cruz’s militant conservatism and evangelical following would add little value.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s cloying auditioning for the number two job is painful to watch and his volatility and ambitiousness matches Trump’s. As head of the transition team he is more likely in line for a cabinet position—possibly as Attorney General.
Gov. John Kasich is an automatic top contender coming from Ohio, a critical swing state, who resisted the temptations to lash out at Trump and could placate many of the moderates in the party fearful of a Trump candidacy without offending conservatives or independents.
No Republican president has ever been elected without carrying the Buckeye state. Only two Democrats, FDR in 1944 and John Kennedy in 1960, have won without it.
President Obama pulled off the feat in both campaigns winning Ohio by less than a 5% margin in 2012. Given its diversity which is just about a mirror image of the entire nation, it is often a reliable predictor of the November winner.
Ohio’s junior Senator, Robert Portman, another moderate and a former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, could be in the running.
In California, Trump has an open road to victory in the GOP primary on June 7. However to win the state’s giant bonanza of 55 electoral votes he would be defying tradition going back to 1988 when George H. W. Bush was the last Republican able to break through.
According to a statement by his campaign Chair, Paul Manafort, it is unlikely that Trump will ask a woman or minority to be is running mate. “In fact that would be viewed as pandering, I think,” said Manafort.
That could be a mistake given Trump’s very high degree of unpopularity among women which I discussed in my previous column.
There is one Californian who might alter the party’s chemistry were she offered the spot and accepted, that being former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Few believe her to be interested. But as a black woman with strong foreign policy experience, broad acceptability, and a youthful 61 she would pose an intriguing match-up for Hillary Clinton who is seven years older.
Others with government experience who might neutralize the intense women opposition are Senators Joni Ernst (Iowa), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), and Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire),
Carly Fiorina, an early dropout from the presidential race she was never really in and whom Ted Cruz said would be his running mate, has no political background and was beaten handily by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer in their 2010 showdown.
Alabama’s Jeff Sessions, the first U.S. Senator to jump on the Trump bandwagon, could help in the Southern states where Clinton has significant strength, even winning the Virginia and Georgia primaries which she lost to President Obama in 2008.
Still, even with overwhelming support from minority voters which Clinton can also expect, Obama won only two of the thirteen southern states in 2012 making this Southern bloc nearly impenetrable unless Trump were to lose badly among white conservative males which is doubtful.
Looking at governors, Nikki Haley (South Carolina), Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Rick Scott (Florida), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), and Rick Snyder (Michigan) deserve consideration.
For those who prefer exotic long shots, Sarah Palin has warmly embraced Trump and might jump at the chance to reprise her earlier performance and would put to rest any doubts about Trump’s allegiance to conservative doctrine. It would also have Democrats doing high fives!
Of course if Trump wanted to veer in the opposite direction to curry the favor of right wing populists, younger voters and independents that have embraced Bernie Sanders with whom he shares anti-establishment views and who might fail to warm to his likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, he could always resurrect Rand Paul.
In what may become known as the Era of the Implausible Presidency anything is possible.