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Trump’s VP choice will prove instrumental

In presidential elections spanning many decades, the running mate’s ability to carry a crucial state was paramount (think John F. Kennedy’s choice of Texan Lyndon B. Johnson). But this emphasis has waned.

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GREGORY RUSOVICH
Guest Writer
rusovich@lbknews.com

The Republican vice-presidential sweepstakes are underway. Former President Donald Trump has a long list of potential candidates. Who among them most provides an electoral boost, demonstrates loyalty to Trump and has the experience to serve as president?
Leading candidates for vice president include North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Ohio Sen. J. D. Vance, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, and Ben Carson, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In presidential elections spanning many decades, the running mate’s ability to carry a crucial state was paramount (think John F. Kennedy’s choice of Texan Lyndon B. Johnson). But this emphasis has waned. Recent vice presidential picks have been based on addressing perceived weaknesses of the presidential candidates. Former President Obama, for example, chose then Sen. Joe Biden to compensate for his own inexperience in foreign policy. Trump selected Mike Pence to indicate stability.
Other contemporary considerations include the desire to diversify a ticket or engage a specific demographic (Biden’s pick of Vice President Kamala Harris comes to mind). Trump has several options who would provide a combination of needed vice-presidential qualities.
Rubio offers the ticket an important reach into the Hispanic community. Biden has struggled to win over the Hispanic vote, and Rubio would intensify the Democrats’ problem in this demographic. His Cuban American roots and fluency in Spanish are clear assets. And a likely GOP win in Florida would be further solidified by his presence on the ticket, allowing the campaign to expend resources in other states. A skilled orator, Rubio is quick on his feet in debates. He also could ease the concerns that some moderate Republicans have about the former president. And most importantly, Rubio himself is capable of serving as president.
There could, however, be a residency issue should Trump choose Rubio. There are conflicting interpretations of the Constitution’s language centered around a president and vice-president residing in the same state. It is possible that Rubio (or Trump) would need to change residency from the state of Florida in order to vie for the state’s 30 electoral votes.
Burgum continues to be on Trump’s short list and according to many accounts, he tops it. While he does not add any specific demographic or geographic enhancement to the ticket, Burgum is smart, knowledgeable and steady. He brings a successful track record as governor of North Dakota and portrays a sense of calm and professionalism, which could broaden the appeal to moderate-conservative voters. He is particularly well versed on energy sector issues and speaks convincingly and intelligently on the issue. Burgum is a wealthy businessman and entrepreneur who previously built and sold his own software company to Microsoft for $1.1 billion. He is also the founder of the Kilbourne Group, a Fargo-based real estate development firm. Burgum clearly demonstrates significant private and public sector experience. But his ability to add politically to Team Trump is questionable.
Scott could significantly help Trump strengthen his recent gains with Black voters, a crucial demographic for the Biden-Harris campaign. Large Black vote margins in Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee are vital for a Democratic victory, and if the gap tightens, the Biden-Harris camp is in trouble. Scott also would be a historic pick, the first Black man to be on a Republican presidential ticket. He has a sunny demeanor and speaks passionately and compellingly about his family’s journey from “cotton to Congress” in just a few generations. This combination of historic choice, penetration of black voters, and powerful life story shatters the progressive “America is racist” narrative and likely damages Biden margins with Black voters. Scott is also deeply loyal to Trump. And while Scott may lack a certain gravitas, the positives sure outweigh the negatives.
Vance has gained momentum in the vice-presidential race recently. He is a former Marine, Yale Law School graduate and bestselling author. Born and raised in Ohio, he brings Midwest roots to the ticket. He is articulate and a strong defender of Trump and his supporters. Vance is 39 years old, and his youth can be a positive. But he is only 18 months into his first government office term, and voters may question his experience.
There are also a few dark-horse contenders for Trump’s vice president. Stefanik from New York demonstrated her prowess in the recent take-down of Ivy League presidents. But while she may help a bit with suburban women voters, she is relatively young and inexperienced.
Cotton is a decorated combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. He also has a law degree from Harvard. But his hawkish views on Ukraine may contrast too starkly with the isolationist wing of the party.
Finally, Carson, Trump’s former HUD secretary and a world-renowned surgeon, is still in the mix. Carson is soft spoken, has a compelling life story, and could also help with building additional Black support. But he is 72 years old and also a Florida resident.
Trump recently has shown more discipline on the stump, and more respect for party norms and leadership. Assuming this newly discovered realpolitik approach holds, my bet is that he chooses to run with Scott or Rubio. Either choice slices directly into a historic Democratic constituency and increases the chances for a Trump victory.

 

 

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