Trump veepstakes in overdrive

Trump veepstakes in overdrive
© Getty Images

A month before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, veepstakes speculation has kicked into high gear.

But given Donald TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE's penchant for courting controversy, it’s unclear who would even consider accepting the No. 2 spot on the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's ticket.


Rising GOP stars like Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) or Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump helps raise million in first six months of 2021 Senate passes bill to award Congressional Gold Medal to first Black NHL player Scott: 'There is hope' for police reform bill MORE (R-S.C.) might not want to attach themselves to a campaign that's stoking racial divisions and that polls suggest could suffer a lopsided defeat to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries Clintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections MORE this fall.

Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, backs Trump. But the senator ripped him for making “racially toxic” remarks about a Mexican-American judge.

Some have urged Trump to turn to a woman, given that Democrats will make history by having the first female nominee of either party. But Trump has bad blood with two female governors often floated as potential vice presidential picks.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), the daughter of immigrants from India, took a swipe at Trump in a January speech, urging Republicans not to “follow the siren call of the angriest voices.” More recently, Trump gave a speech in Albuquerque lambasting New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), the country's first Hispanic female governor and the head of the National Governors Association.

Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush’s secretary of State, signaled on Friday she had zero interest in being on the Trump ticket and won’t be attending the GOP convention next month.

Just weeks ago, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) had been a favorite. He was seen as someone who would bring foreign policy chops and congressional relationships to the ticket, and had even traveled to Trump Tower in New York to huddle with the candidate.

But that was before the billionaire businessman angered many in his party by calling a federal judge biased because of his Mexican heritage and renewing his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States. In fact, Corker appeared despondent this week when asked about Trump’s post-Orlando national security speech, which was packed with anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“I did not think the comments that were made … by Mr. Trump were necessarily the type of comments that needed to be made after 50 people had perished,” Corker told reporters in the Capitol.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But Trump recently told Bloomberg that he had narrowed his vice presidential search to four or five establishment politicians, including former campaign rivals. The shortlist could include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a primary foe-turned-surrogate; Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another rival who has refused to endorse Trump; and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a consummate D.C. insider with an enormous political Rolodex.

Gingrich last week met with Trump backers on Capitol Hill, but he told reporters he wasn’t interested in the No. 2 job. And he angered the nominee after Gingrich appeared on Fox News and scolded Trump for leveling “inexcusable” attacks on U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Gingrich has since dialed back any criticisms of the candidate, turning his fire instead on Clinton.

“I think it does [matter]. He’s mentioned several candidates that I like. I like Corker. I like Kasich. I like Newt,” said veteran Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who has concerns about Trump and still hasn’t endorsed him. “So those are some good names that I think would be very beneficial to him. But who knows where he’s headed.”

A real estate magnate and reality TV star, Trump never served in the military and has little foreign policy experience. So those are areas he’ll be looking to shore up as he considers a running mate, top Republicans said.

“I think when a presidential candidate picks a vice presidential nominee, they should look at areas where they can augment where they are not strong,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House GOP’s campaign operations and a Trump backer, told The Hill. “For Mr Trump, it would be more in the foreign policy, defense rather than in the economic quadrant.  

“I could see a Joni Ernst: military, woman, Midwest senator, conservative credentials,” Walden added. “There’s a lot there.”

Ernst, 45, a freshman senator from Iowa, is a combat veteran who served in Kuwait during the Iraq War. Her state’s longtime GOP governor, Terry Branstad, has been pitching Ernst to the Trump campaign, highlighting her military credentials. But an Ernst spokeswoman said the senator’s focus is on “serving Iowans” and continuing her 99-county tour across the state to meet with constituents.

Conservative Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) also has been pushing for another freshman senator and combat veteran: Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Biden administration expands Afghan refugee program | Culture war comes for female draft registration | US launches third Somalia strike in recent weeks Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Chuck Todd is dead wrong: Liberal bias defines modern journalism MORE of Arkansas. The 39-year-old Harvard grad served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and has not ruled out serving as Trump’s running mate if asked.

Trump shouldn’t pick a running mate based on their gender or the swing state they represent, Meadows argued.

“I think Tom Cotton is willing to be direct and strong on national defense. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy and one of the smartest guys I’ve ever served with,” said Meadows, who served with Cotton in the House.

“I believe he would [accept]. And I think Tom Cotton would be an extremely good choice.”