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Candidates are already positioning themselves for Trump’s vice-presidency



(Oxon Hill) Visits to Mar-a-Lago. Complimentary speeches. Front row seats at major events.

The first Republican presidential primaries will take place in almost a year and the field of candidates is still uncertain. But already, a parallel contest of another kind is underway: several Republicans are openly trying to position themselves as potential running mates of Donald Trump, the favorite of the nomination race.

“A lot of people are auditioning,” Donald Trump boasted to his supporters in Florida last month.

The mere mention of a running mate this early in the process is a break from the traditional presidential primary schedule, where candidates typically spend the first few months of campaigning introducing themselves to voters and sharing their vision for the country. But as a former president, Mr Trump needs no introduction and is keen to project an air of inevitability around his campaign, especially as attention shifts to the Florida governor. Ron DeSantis, who is widely considered his toughest potential rival within the GOP.

Trump campaign officials insist the search for a vice president is not something they have actively discussed.

“We appreciate all the support for President Trump, but the goal is clearly to ensure he wins the Republican nomination and is well positioned to win the general election in 2024,” Jason Miller said. , a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump.

That hasn’t stopped some potential candidates from taking full advantage of opportunities to be near Mr. Trump, at his club and at events. That dynamic was on display earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where a trio of women who have been mentioned as potential candidates sat in the audience to applaud Mr. Trump’s keynote address.

They are Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) and Elise Stefanik (New York), and Kari Lake, the former television presenter who unsuccessfully tried to be elected governor of Arizona. She ended her speech at an opening dinner by kissing a portrait of Mr. Trump placed on the stage.

According to those who have spoken to him, Mr. Trump is in no rush to make a decision and understands that he must let the nomination process unfold, but he nevertheless discussed the possible choices well before officially announcing his decision. candidacy last fall. During these conversations, he indicated that he wanted to choose a woman this time around.

But his allies say Mr Trump is first and foremost looking for someone who will show unwavering loyalty, after he was scalded by former Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to overturn the election results of 2020.

In 2016, while posing as a famous businessman with no political experience, Mr. Trump chose someone who was, in many ways, his complete opposite, choosing the governor of Indiana and the former congressman who could strengthen his standing with conservatives and the religious right.

This time, Mr. Trump is looking for someone more like him, said Michael Caputo, a longtime friend and adviser who believes Stefanik would be the best candidate for Mr. Trump.

“I think the president learned a lot from his experience with Pence,” he said. I think this time around Mr. Trump will be looking for someone of the same stuff as himself, not a different and complementary stuff. »

While Mr. Trump is looking for a star, he has also made it known that he is reluctant to choose someone who could overshadow him in the race.

Among those considered to be the most eager for the job are Lake, who is popular with Trump’s Make America Great Again base. She is seen as unequivocally loyal to the former president, but critics note she lost her only race and continues to contest the results, which would draw attention to her own election failures. of Mr. Trump and would intensify criticism that he is too focused on the past.

She said in a statement that she was “100% dedicated to the governorship of Arizona” ― even though Democrat Katie Hobbs, who beat Mme Lake, now holds the position ― and that she “will also work to ensure that President Trump returns to the White House as soon as possible. Anything outside of these two purposes is nothing but a distraction. »

A person close to Mme Lake revealed that she has had no formal discussions about the role and is currently preparing for a potential run for the Senate. But the person, who like others insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations, also said that Mme Lake is unequivocally pro-Trump and would likely do anything he asks.

Mme Greene, who recently proposed a “national divorce” between red states and blue states, is also seen as keen on playing that role. She was a constant presence at Mr. Trump’s midterm rallies, often speaking during the pre-evening program, and often visited Florida, including sharing dinner with Lake at a local restaurant, Rocco’s Tacos, on Valentine’s Day.

“She sees herself on Trump’s shortlist of vice-presidential nominees. To paraphrase Cokie Roberts, when MTG looks in the mirror, she sees a potential president smiling at her,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, who frequently receives Greene on her podcast, referencing the late political journalist.

Asked recently about her ambitions as vice-president, Greene replied to reporters, “It’s up to President Trump to choose who he wants.”

Mme Stefanik is also often cited as a likely candidate, but she’s taken what her allies describe as a more subtle approach. She supported Mr. Trump even before he announced his candidacy and became one of his main advocates on the Hill. During the CPAC, Stefanik used his speech to call for Mr. Trump’s re-election and introduced him at a private event hosted by his super PAC. Mr Trump, meanwhile, called it a “rocket”.

Relatives of Stefanik claim that instead of openly seeking the job, she is focused on her job as GOP conference chair and member of the House Intelligence Committee, believing that if she does it well, good things will follow. Still, she enjoys the backing of several Trump allies, who see her as disciplined and less risky than other potential options, and who also point to her track record of winning suburban ridings.

In an interview, Stefanik said she had not discussed the position with Mr. Trump, although she had previously said she would be honored to serve in his administration.

“We have a lot of work to do over the next two years and I will work no matter what to ensure that we have a Republican President, House and Senate in 2024,” she said. So that’s what I focused on, and it’s a lot of work. »

Donald Trump also touched on other potential running mates, including his former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who has been reluctant to criticize the former president since launching his candidacy. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who would be the first black person to appear on a Republican presidential ticket, is considered another potential option.

Many think that Haley, in particular, would be open to such an offer.

Other potential candidates were also named: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who plans to run for president; Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, who supported the former president in 2016 and 2020; and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who appeared alongside the former president during his visit to the state on Monday.

“We’ll have a lot of great choices for vice-president. We’re going to pick a great one,” Trump said during his visit to Iowa.

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