From our correspondent in Washington – The Republican primaries have only just begun and yet, for Donald Trump, the 2024 presidential nomination seems a done deal. The American media are less worried about his score on Super Tuesday than about the choice of the potential vice-president of the United States.
Playing the game of predictions in American political life is always a risky bet. So let’s start with the one that seems obvious: Mike Pence has an almost zero chance of being the running mate of Donald Trump, favorite for the Republican nomination for the presidential election in November. After four years of good and loyal service between 2016 and 2020, the former Republican vice-president did not oppose, on January 6, 2021, the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. By directly opposing Donald Trump, he allowed American democratic institutions to persist on this day marked by the violent assault on the Capitol. But he also committed the most serious crime in the eyes of his boss: lack of loyalty.
Because Donald Trump’s next running mate will have to be loyal, just like his entire cabinet. The billionaire, indicted in several cases by the American federal justice system, will have every interest in choosing a vice-president who, in the event of conviction and dismissal, would succeed him and agree to pardon him.
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Asked recently on Fox News about the main quality sought in a running mate, Donald Trump gave a more politically correct answer. “It has to be someone who can be a good president. I mean, you always have to think about it because, you know, an emergency… it can happen, right? It doesn’t matter who you are, it can happen. So That’s the main criterion.” On January 21, still on Fox News, he assured that the choice of “VP” would in any case have no influence on the result of the presidential election.
And yet, in a close race, every vote counts. A loyal and competent profile would not be enough. Ideally, it should also provide complementarity to the presidential ticket. That is to say, attracting to the Republican camp a sufficient portion of moderates, women, African-Americans and even Hispanics… in short, those that Donald Trump, alone, has more difficulty convincing.
A dozen names are circulating. An announcement is unlikely to be made in the short term – candidates generally wait until the summer and the approach of the party’s national convention to reveal their choices. But with Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries no longer in doubt, despite the number of votes remaining, it cannot be ruled out that we will know the name of his running mate sooner than expected. In recent weeks, observing the ballet of personalities parading on stage to support their champion at a meeting was enough to get an idea of the aspiring candidates.
The potential short list
For many observers, Tim Scott is the ideal profile to form the presidential ticket with Donald Trump. Senator from South Carolina, this African-American with a thoughtful and careful speech recently abandoned the race in the primaries and provided notable support for (and appreciated by) Donald Trump.
During his campaign, he was careful not to openly criticize the former president, instead recalling how the two men had worked together to obtain tax cuts. His contacts and experience in Congress would be assets in convincing the legislature to implement Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda. Finally, it would make it possible to attract part of the black electorate but also, more generally, certain independents or moderates burned by the idea of a second Trump presidency.
In noted column published in the New York Times, Kellyanne Conway, the former advisor to Donald Trump, believes that Tim Scott would bring a more nuanced conservative note to the subject of abortion. According to her, the Republicans must regain control of this explosive debate. Because Democrats, she accuses, are generating electoral victories by having “taken advantage of fear and lies about total opposition to abortion and a possible law banning abortion at the national level” . According to Kellyanne Conway, Tim Scott is one of those who “showed how to understand and explain this issue, exposing the extremism of late-term abortions, which are painful for the fetus, while speaking with compassion and conviction on behalf of the unborn.” .”
Sunday February 4 on Fox News, Donald Trump mentioned the name of Tim Scott as that of a potential running mate. “I called him this week – because a lot of people like Tim Scott –– and I said, ‘You’re a much better candidate for me than you are for yourself.'”
– Kristi Noem
The other name mentioned the same day by Donald Trump on Fox News is that of Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota: “She fights for me in an incredible way. She said: ‘I will never run against him because I can’t beat him.’ That’s very kind of you to say that.”
Kristi Noem, 52 years old and former beauty queen, certainly lacks political experience at the national level. But this deficiency can become a quality compared to other candidates with multiple pans. Above all, it is popular in the Midwest where several key states are courted by Democrats and Republicans.
Be careful, however: if a running mate can attract female voters on paper, Kristi Noem should not be placed on the side of the moderate forces. She also refused to confine South Dakota during the Covid-19 epidemic. His allegiance to Donald Trump is well established. “The choice of Noem as running mate would signal that Trump will be even less inclined, during his second term, to kowtow to the Republican establishment,” analyzes the magazine The Atlantic.
Another woman, extremely dedicated, is regularly cited as one of Donald Trump’s preferred candidates. Elise Stefanik, a 39-year-old conservative New York State representative and former Harvard student, represented the Republican establishment before making a 180-degree turn by joining the MAGA camp (Make America Great Again, slogan of the Trumpists). “She basically abandoned her own values for a man who had none,” summed up one of her former friends at Time Magazine.
She now regularly comes to galvanize the public during Donald Trump’s meetings and does not hesitate to describe as “hostages” the defendants accused of having sacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Added to her unfailing loyalty is an asset: the competence. As vice-president, she could put her experience in Congress – she is part of the Republican leadership – and in the White House, where she worked for a time, to the benefit of the executive branch.
He too was critical of Donald Trump, before finally pledging allegiance to him. Author of the best-seller “Hillbilly Elegy”, his memoir about the white working classes of American states victims of deindustrialization, JD Vance was initially notoriously anti-Trump, before seeking to benefit from his influence during his candidacy for office. Senate in 2022. “JD is licking my ass because he wants me to support him,” the billionaire poetically declared during a meeting in Ohio, where the thirty-year-old was finally narrowly elected.
JD Vance is now a loyal candidate, who perhaps understands the MAGA electorate better than anyone. For former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, her nuanced position on abortion, like Tim Scott, is also a key asset. But his narrow victory in 2022 showed that he was not unanimous, while his political skills at the national level remain to be demonstrated.
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