Presidential races

Rankings: Trump’s top 10 VP picks

Greg Nash

Speculation is raging in Washington about who might end up as Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick.

{mosads}Trump had said he’s considering a number of candidates, but has stressed that he wants an experienced politician to help him navigate Washington.

While the presumptive nominee is likely weeks away from a decision, here are the 10 names insiders see as the most sought-after VP picks.


1. Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Kasich is a no-brainer — a candidate who seems laboratory-designed to be the perfect VP pick.

National profile? Tick.

Ability to be president immediately should something happen to Trump? Tick. 

Helps in a swing state? Massive tick. In Ohio, which typically swings with the presidency, Kasich won with a 30-point margin and can boast about turning an $8 billion shortfall into a $2 billion surplus.

As Ohio’s popular sitting governor, Kasich would be the best-placed person in the country to deliver the crucial bellwether state to Trump.

Kasich also has the policy depth and national security experience that Trump lacks.

He was chairman of the Budget Committee in the late 1990s, when he worked with then president Bill Clinton to balance the federal budget. He also served 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee.

The bad news: Kasich has said publicly in the strongest terms that he doesn’t want to be anyone’s VP. But he seems to be softening somewhat, now saying only that he’s “not inclined” to be Trump’s running mate, whereas previously he said there was “zero chance.”

There may also be an irreconcilable personality clash between Kasich and Trump – two men whom associates say both fancy themselves as brilliant leaders. A GOP source who’s known Kasich for years says he can’t imagine the Ohio governor taking marching orders from anybody, least of all Trump.

Finally, Kasich is a white male — a demographic group that Trump already has in the bag.


2. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker

Corker added fuel to already burning VP rumors when he paid a visit to Trump Tower in Manhattan last week. The Tennessee lawmaker told reporters they shouldn’t read anything into the meeting and that the two men mostly discussed foreign policy, but sources close to and inside the Trump campaign readily mention Corker’s name when they speculate about the VP shortlist.

Corker offers Trump some obvious benefits. He’s got insider cred – GOP Senators have been praising his virtues as a potential running mate – and he’d help Trump build trust on the Hill. Trump has said he wants a Washington insider to help him navigate Congress and, as a senior lawmaker, Corker would serve that purpose.

Still more useful would be Corker’s foreign policy experience. He’s chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Many Republican elites are terrified about handing over the most powerful military in the world to a national security neophyte, and a Trump-Corker ticket would go a long way toward comforting them.

The bad news: As a white-haired white male from Tennessee who is close to anonymous outside of Washington, Corker offers limited political value to Trump.


3. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)

Trump values loyalty, and he’s had no better congressional surrogate than Blackburn. Flick on a Sunday political TV show and you’ll likely see Blackburn defending Trump against whatever the Democrat panelist is throwing at him.

Blackburn is telegenic and has avoided the Washington habit of speaking like a politician. She sounds, as Trump does, like a regular person. Plus, like Carly Fiorina, she can be a brutal critic of Hillary Clinton and having a woman on the ticket will help defend Trump against the Clinton campaign’s charges that he and the Republican Party are anti-woman.

Blackburn also has experience in health policy and could help Trump flesh out his vague promise to replace Obamacare with something “much better.” It doesn’t hurt that she’s expressed interest in the VP job.

The bad news: Blackburn has no foreign policy experience, which would create a GOP ticket virtually absent of national security credentials. She also represents a safe Republican state.


4. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Carson would be an unconventional pick, and would obviously not satisfy Trump’s stated desire to choose a Washington insider who could help him cut deals on the Hill.

But Carson has a lot to offer Trump politically. He’s generally well-liked across the country and among those who love him he reaches idol status. Carson has traveled America for the past few years selling his popular books and building extraordinarily deep connections with evangelical communities. He could potentially help Trump turn out two important demographics: African-Americans and the Christian Right.

Another asset Carson brings is his small-dollar fundraising network, which was the closest thing in scale on the Republican side to the fundraising machine that Bernie Sanders has built on the Left.

The bad news: Carson has already proven to be a problematic surrogate. He said in one interview that Trump has “major defects” and in another he said there were “probably” better people than Trump who could be president. Carson was also exposed during the campaign for his lack of national security experience.


5. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin

A senior source on Trump’s campaign told The Hill that Trump tends to view governors more favorably than senators, because while both are politicians at least the governor has executive experience.

Fallin potentially solves two problems. She’s a governor, which would bolster Trump’s executive seriousness.  And she could also address Trump’s much-written-about “woman problem.” Only about 30 percent of American women hold Trump in favorable light, and he knows he needs to change that fast.

The bad news: Fallin has very little national name ID and wouldn’t bring a swing state into play. She represents Oklahoma, where Republican nominee Mitt Romney won in a landslide in 2012.  


6. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Chris Christie is almost certainly on the Trump campaign’s VP list but it’s unlikely he’ll get the nod.

It’s not that Christie is without virtues. He’s a governor and former prosecutor who has national name recognition and rare political gifts. If Trump didn’t run in 2016, Christie would’ve been the unshackled straight-talker in the GOP field. Even with Trump, Christie still managed to assert his presence and showed his ability to destroy an opponent when he took out Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at a debate before the New Hampshire primary. He could be an effective attack dog against Hillary Clinton.

Christie also brings fundraising muscle to the Trump campaign. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie barnstormed around the country and helped raise more than $100 million.

The bad news: Christie is deeply unpopular in his home state of New Jersey and has been widely lampooned since endorsing Trump. Even Trump has appeared to enjoying emasculating Christie – making jokes about his weight and bossing him around at events. Christie also belongs to a demographic group that Trump already has to himself: middle-aged white males.   


7. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst would be a surprise selection, but for all the right reasons.

She could help Trump in at least four areas: She’s more than 20 years younger than Trump and is viewed within the GOP as a politician capable of making inroads with female voters and young Americans. She’s a skilled media performer and Trump could feel at ease turning her loose around the country to represent his campaign.

Also, in Ernst’s short time in Washington she’s formed strong bonds with Republican leadership and is understood to be liked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She’d be a rare VP that helps Trump connect with Capitol Hill without totally alienating the conservative activists who love him for being an outsider.

The bad news: Ernst is less than two years into her first term in the U.S. Senate so may be leery about ditching her Iowa constituents for higher stations so soon after being elected.


8. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Selecting Gingrich as VP would be a tacit acknowledgement by Trump that he’s given up on reaching out to women and minorities. 

A Trump-Gingrich ticket would hurl Trump down a narrow path to victory: Increasing the percentage of white voters who vote Republican at the top of the ticket.

This ‘double down on whites’ strategy would be the polar opposite of what the Republican National Committee imagined when it wrote its autopsy after the 2012 election. But really, what’s to lose? Trump has already set fire to the RNC’s playbook, and Gingrich would bring many other assets to Trump’s campaign.

First off, Trump and Gingrich genuinely like each other. They’ve known each other a long time and talk regularly by phone. Trump is understood to seek out Gingrich’s political advice. 

Second, Gingrich is perhaps the only other conservative politician in America who rivals Trump for his knack of manipulating free media coverage. 

And third, the former speaker remains well-connected on Capitol Hill and can help Trump navigate the hallways of Washington.

The bad news: Gingrich is a magnet for controversy and unconventional ideas. Remember the moon colony? A Trump-Gingrich ticket would test the tolerance of a fed-up electorate.


9. Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

A sharp-tongued woman who has executive experience. What’s not to like about that?

Brewer was early to endorse Trump – she did so in late February – and since then she’s been a feisty advocate for the presumptive GOP nominee on national television. Brewer also seems to enjoy bashing Hillary Clinton for playing identity politics with the “woman’s card.” She’ll be a useful weapon for Trump regardless of whether he puts her on the ticket.  

The bad news: She’s not well-known nationally and could be seen as past her political expiry date, having left office in 2015.  


10. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions

Ted Cruz badly wanted Jeff Sessions’ endorsement in the Republican presidential primaries. But Sessions went all in on Trump, expressing especially enthusiastic support for Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration and trade.

Since then, Sessions has done much more for Trump than promoting and defending him on TV. Sessions and his staff have introduced Trump and his people to key lawmakers in Washington. He’s done a lot to increase comfort levels with Trump on the Hill.

Sessions and his team, such as chief of staff Rick Dearborn, also play key roles in Trump’s growing Washington policy shop, which is overseen by Paul Manafort. Sessions has been leading Trump’s national security working group.

The bad news: Sessions as VP would offer Trump limited advantages politically. His uncompromising stance on illegal immigration is much more appealing to the Republican base than it is to a general election audience. And as a white man representing a deep red state, Sessions appears to have little capacity for outreach to women, Democrat-leaning independents and minorities.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bill Clinton Bob Corker Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jeff Sessions Marco Rubio Marsha Blackburn Mitch McConnell Ted Cruz

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