Trump's VP: Top 10 contenders

The Republican “veepstakes” is underway.

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE has begun the vetting process, which will lead to months of rumors and speculation over whom he’ll select as his running mate. 

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It could be a difficult undertaking, as some potential candidates might be hesitant to hitch their political future to a polarizing figure like Trump.

But there will be plenty willing to roll the dice and join Trump’s historic outsider campaign.

Based on discussions with strategists and political insiders, here are the top 10 early contenders to be Trump’s running mate:

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez

Landing the popular and telegenic governor of New Mexico would be a coup for Trump.

Martinez is the first female governor of New Mexico and the first Hispanic to lead the Republican Governors Association.

Those attributes could go a long way in helping Trump beat back criticism that he’s a misogynist and that his hawkish rhetoric on immigration is xenophobic and racist.

Furthermore, New Mexico was once a swing state. While the state has gone for Democrats in five of the last six elections, George W. Bush defeated John KerryJohn Forbes KerryRubio wants DOJ to find out if Kerry broke law by meeting with Iranians Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Pompeo doubles down on criticism of Kerry: The Iran deal failed, 'let it go' MORE there in 2004.

Martinez has maintained a high favorability rating in the state through her second term and won reelection there in a landslide. Having her on the ticket could put the state in play. 

But convincing Martinez to get on board could be a heavy lift for Trump. She backed Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioNikki Haley: New York Times ‘knew the facts’ about curtains and still released story March For Our Lives founder leaves group, says he regrets trying to 'embarrass' Rubio Rubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' MORE (R-Fla.) in the primary and has denounced Trump’s remarks about illegal immigrants being rapists and other criminals.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Trump said on Wednesday he’d consider vetting Kasich, even before the Ohio governor had officially ended his campaign.

Trump and Kasich never battled the way other former candidates did, and many Republicans believe he stayed in the race for so long to burnish his vice presidential bona fides.

Kasich is trail-tested and, as the popular governor of a critical swing state, must be included on any vice presidential short-list.

Trump has said he’s looking for someone with political experience. In addition to being governor, Kasich spent nearly 20 years as a member of the House. He was chairman of the Budget Committee and boasts of being the chief architect responsible for balancing the federal budget under former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonSexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle Presidential approval: It's the economy; except when it's not MORE.

He has cut a mostly moderate profile as governor. His liberal rhetoric on healthcare, education and social issues drives some conservatives crazy but could expand Trump’s appeal to the middle in a general election. 

Kasich’s hard line on abortion — he has signed anti-abortion laws that have led to the closure of many clinics in his state — could help Trump in an area where he has struggled to speak to the base.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Trump has said he’s looking at an insider to help him bridge the gap to Capitol Hill, which would seem to eliminate Carson from consideration.

But Carson is deep inside Trump’s inner circle now.

Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday that Carson will play an important role in the VP search. That would seem to take him off the board, although Dick Cheney had the same charge for President George W. Bush in 2000 and ended up finding himself.

Trump and Carson’s combined celebrity and penchant for headline-grabbing comments would be off-the-charts. 

As a candidate, Carson was an internet sensation. He was also a fundraising juggernaut — an area of campaigning where Trump could use some help.

And as the only black man to run for president this year, Carson adds diversity to the ticket.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

It’s hard to envision a Trump-Rubio ticket after the two spent weeks hurling personal insults at one another before Trump finally triumphed over “Little Marco.”

Last week, Rubio appeared to be warming to the idea of Trump, saying the businessman’s “performance has improved significantly.” But in a CNN interview on Tuesday, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant called reports of any détente between the two “false.”

Still, if Rubio believes Clinton must be stopped and that Trump is the only one who can do it, he might reconsider. Rubio’s decision not to run for reelection to the Senate has at least freed him up professionally to consider the possibility.

Despite his failed presidential bid, Rubio still checks all the boxes as an ideal candidate: He’s bright, young, Hispanic, one of the premier conservative communicators and hails from a critical swing state.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

The New Jersey governor’s decision to back Trump at an early stage shocked and baffled many Washington insiders.

He was condemned as an opportunist and a sell-out and someone to be shunned by many mainstream Republicans.

Now that gamble might pay off by landing him in the second highest office in the land.

Christie doesn’t bring a swing state with him, and as the primary showed, he has a large national profile but not much of a base.

But Trump prizes loyalty and could reward Christie for being one of the first establishment figures to publicly back him.

The New Jersey governor is sharp and charismatic and would be ferocious in his attacks against the Democrats.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich

Trump said Wednesday he’s looking for a candidate with “great political experience” who speaks the language of Washington and will help him with outreach to lawmakers.

It would be hard to find a more experienced candidate than former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the architect of the Republican takeover of the House in the 1990s.

The Georgia Republican has been advising Trump in private while praising and defending him in public.

Gingrich was a surprise insurgent candidate in 2012, winning two states and reminding political watchers that he’s a skilled debater and a natural on the campaign trail.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Trump has said he’s considering Scott as a vice presidential candidate.

The Florida governor has said he’s not interested, but that’s a common reponse at this point in the process.

Scott, a former healthcare executive, is a business-minded Republican from a state that Trump must carry if he hopes to win the White House.

However, Scott’s favorability rating is underwater at home. That’s led to some awkward public moments, like a viral video of a woman shouting at him in a Starbucks.

And Scott didn’t exactly stick his neck out for Trump during the Florida primary, sitting on his endorsement until the day after the vote.

Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis

Trump is passionate about historical military leaders, often lionizing Gens. George Patton and Douglas MacArthur at campaign rallies while bemoaning the lack of strong leadership in the military today.

Mattis, a legendary, straight-talking four-star retired Marine Corps general whose nicknames include “Warrior Monk” and “Mad Dog,” might be right up Trump’s alley.

Mattis hasn’t spoken publicly spoken about his thoughts on Trump.

Anti-Trump conservatives spent months trying to recruit him to launch an independent bid. He officially removed himself from consideration for a third-party run last week.

Tennessee Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly MORE

The outspoken Tennessee Republican is a veteran legislator with more than a decade of experience on Capitol Hill.

She’s vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a member of the Budget Committee and leading the House investigation into Planned Parenthood.

Trump has stumbled on abortion and failed in the eyes of some conservatives as a fierce enough critic of Planned Parenthood.

And having a woman on the ticket could be critical for Trump, who will likely face a rival in Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? MORE eager to highlight his past disparaging remarks about women.

Blackburn said she’d be open to being Trump’s vice president as far back as February, when most lawmakers were loathe to be associated with the businessman.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

The South Carolina governor backed Marco Rubio in the open primary and has harshly criticized Trump, even signaling that she wouldn’t support him as the nominee.

But that was before Trump became the likely nominee. On Wednesday, Haley told Reuters she’d support Trump as the nominee, although she sought to tamp down speculation she had any interest in being his vice president.

Haley would be on any candidate’s vice presidential wish list.

The fast-rising GOP star is a young, telegenic, charismatic Indian-American and one of the most popular governors in the country.