VP sweepstakes coming into final stretch

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Former President Donald J. Trump may be tied up a Manhattan court room, but he’s active online.

One of his fund-raising efforts asks supporters to help him choose his vice president. In a mass email, Trump asked “Which person would you select as your next Vice President? Type in the person’s name here.”

Trump will make up his own mind, but the potential candidates list is long, and his choice is important. A significant faction of registered GOP voters dubious about Trump’s candidacy could be swayed toward the former president based on his VP selection.

Even though Nikki Haley abandoned her presidential campaign in early March after losing all but one state in Super Tuesday’s primary races, she’s still managed to clinch 13%-18% of the GOP electorate in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Haley’s performance causes GOP insiders to question whether her supporters will ultimately back Trump, cross party lines or simply stay home.

Trump’s VP will, if history holds, debate Kamala Harris on September 25 at Lafayette College, a key event that follows the first scheduled presidential debate, September 16 at Texas State University (though neither Biden nor Trump have committed to the debates).

A look back: The first vice presidential debate occurred in 1976 between two seasoned Senators, Kansas’ Bob Dole and Minnesota’s Walter Mondale. The exchanges were lively; Mondale called Ford “a hatchet-man.” Both were veteran politicians, tough and loyal, Dole to the right politically of incumbent President Gerald Ford and Mondale to the left of the challenger, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.

Among the names being bandied about for Trump’s VP are three U.S. Senators: Ohio’s J.D. Vance, Florida’s Marco Rubio, and South Carolina’s Tim Scott. Other names into Reps. Byron Scott of Florida and Elise Stefanik of New York, but forget them. If Trump wins, he’ll need every congressional supporting vote he can get, and to remove five certain yeas from Congress on his agenda would be folly.

Another name mentioned is also a highly unlikely choice. Although Trump flew North Dakota Governor and one-time 2024 presidential hopeful Doug Burgum to his Wildwood, New Jersey rally, the moderate is, like the presumptive nominee, an old, white billionaire. North Dakota has three electoral votes, and in 2016 and 2020 Trump won the state by a 2:1 ratio. Trump would gain nothing from an electoral college angle if he added Burgum to the ticket.

That narrows the prospects down to Tulsi Gabbard who, in many ways, is an ideal VP choice. Gabbard is young, attractive, well-spoken, a former four-term House Democrat, and an Iraq War veteran. In 2022, Gabbard abandoned the Democratic Party because of its shift to the far-left, or as she put it, is “now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us by racializing every issue and stoke anti-white racism, undermines Americans’ God-given freedoms, demonizes the police but protects criminals, encourages open borders, weaponizes national security for politics’ sake, and pushes the country ever closer to nuclear war.”

In further explaining her decision to switch to the Independent Party, Gabbard said the Democratic Party no longer believes in a government that is of, by, and for the people. The 2020 presidential hopeful gave the keynote speech in March at Mar-a-Lago to the 1917 Society, a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the Constitution.

On voters’ top concern, immigration, Gabbard’s grade while she was in the House was as bad as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, F-. Gabbard was on the wrong side of every important immigration issue – she voted against stronger border and interior enforcement, and in favor of expanding worker visas that displace employed Americans. Her congressional votes showed that, at the time she cast them, she encouraged amnesty enticements and rewarded illegal aliens. Another irrevocable negative: Gabbard endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016 and, after she ended her own presidential campaign, Biden in 2020.

Should Gabbard’s dismal congressional immigration voting record and her past presidential endorsements surface in her debate against Harris, the Hawaiian could point to her recent criticism of Biden’s open borders, her support of Israel and, in general, her more traditional values and say she’s evolved politically and socially since becoming an Independent.

Trump promises to name his VP before the GOP national convention in Milwaukee in July. In the end, he may not choose Gabbard, but he absolutely cannot remove any of his congressional allies.

Copyright 2024 Joe Guzzardi, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joe Guzzardi is an Institute for Sound Public Policy analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected].