NASHUA, N.H. – Former President Donald Trump, who catapulted to reality TV fame as the host of “The Apprentice,” is now presiding over another competition: Choosing his potential 2024 running mate.
As Trump campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire in recent weeks, he conducted what looked like auditions for a running mate, a decision he said he’s in no hurry to make.
“There’s no rush to that,” Trump told Fox News during a weekend interview in New Hampshire.
The real estate mogul has not officially won the 2024 Republican nomination. But that hasn’t stopped political observers from guessing who the former president might be considering ahead of time.
So far, the list ranges from rising Republican stars such as Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to former primary opponents like Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. and longtime allies like former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
With former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley deciding to stay in the race after losing in New Hampshire, Trump figures to hold more vice presidential tryouts as his campaign heads to Nevada and South Carolina.
Stefanik goes high profile
Stefanik, a member of House Republican leadership, probably drew the most publicity as Trump’s potential vice president pick during his New Hampshire primary campaign. She urged voters to get to the polls and fielded questions about becoming Trump’s running mate – an idea she didn’t exactly discourage.
“I’d be honored – I’ve said that for a year – to serve in a future Trump administration in any capacity,” Stefanik told reporters Friday in Concord, New Hampshire.
When Stefanik spoke to volunteers at Trump’s New Hampshire state campaign headquarters, one man chanted: “VP! VP! VP!”
The New York Republican most recently made headlines for leading the charge against three university presidents who testified in a heated congressional hearing on combating the rise of antisemitism on U.S. campuses. Two of the then-university leaders have since resigned, former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and former Harvard President Claudine Gay.
But as Stefanik has set her sights on the 2024 elections, she also recently made sure she was the first prominent Republican to congratulate Trump on his New Hampshire primary win. Her office emailed a statement nearly a half-hour before the last polls closed.
Tim Scott, the anti-Nikki Haley
Trump has played up last week’s endorsement from Tim Scott, the U.S. senator who passed over fellow South Carolinian Haley to support the former president.
During his victory speech in Nashua on Tuesday, Trump spotlighted Scott by noting that Haley – then South Carolina’s governor – appointed him to the Senate, but he wound up endorsing Trump for president.
“You must really hate her,” Trump told Scott, who replied: “I just love you.”
After he ended his own presidential bid last year, expect to see more of Scott’s vice presidential audition during Trump’s campaign ahead of the South Carolina primary.
J.D. Vance: The anti-establishment contender
Republican Sen. J.D. Vance, whose win in an Ohio Senate election was rare GOP bright spot in the 2022 midterms, is also stumping for Trump in what could turn into an audition.
The author of the 2016 memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” has gone from one of Trump’s severest critics – he once called him “an idiot” – to one of his biggest acolytes.
Now, Vance is working to pressure Haley to drop out of the race and bashing establishment Republicans who have long disdained Trump.
Vance said Wednesday on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, “Take it from someone who was anti-Trump early on and then saw the belly of the beast: the Republican Party without Donald Trump is a disaster, morally and politically.”
Ramaswamy, Burgum and Carson: Will Trump choose a former competitor?
While it’s not clear how Trump is evaluating his potential running mates, he has recently campaigned alongside several former Republican rivals who have since ended their campaigns.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy spoke at Trump’s victory rally in New Hampshire Tuesday night, arguing the Republican establishment is propping up Haley in hopes that Trump will falter under the weight of his criminal charges.
“There’s no way she can defeat Trump through the front door, so her donor puppet masters are propping her up long enough while plotting to eliminate Trump from the ballot,” Ramaswamy said without evidence on X.
Another former GOP opponent, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, has also hit the Trump campaign trail. While Burgum is probably a longshot, Trump spoke highly of him at events in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The Trump campaign has also highlighted certain surrogates, some of whom are considered VP candidates. That group includes Carson, who served as Trump’s own secretary of housing and urban development.
Enter stage right
As Trump assesses running mate resumes, the most conservative elements of the party are putting up their own nominations.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a firebrand who has made no secret of her desire to be vice president, also showed up in Iowa and New Hampshire.
She has also become the most anti-Haley of the conservative bunch, calling on the former United Nations ambassador to end her 2024 campaign. Greene on Tuesday warned “if Nikki Haley decides to drag this out to South Carolina, her political career will be over too.”
Also spotted on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire: Kari Lake, the former television news anchor who lost her 2022 bid to be governor of Arizona. Lake is seeking a Senate seat in 2024, and Trump has reportedly been considering her as his VP pick for months.
Which vice presidential candidates are already fired?
Trump and his aides haven’t echoed his “Apprentice” catchphrase by telling anyone “you’re fired” from the veepstakes, but they have shot down some prominent Republicans.
For example, Former Vice President Mike Pence is not in line for a rerun.
Trump and Pence publicly split after the then-vice president refused to block the electoral votes in Congress cementing President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Pence may wind up testifying in a federal trial over Trump alleged efforts to steal the election and his actions surrounding the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.
Haley herself also feels like a longshot for running mate.
Last week, the former president told a rally in Concord that it probably won’t happen.
“She is OK, but she is not presidential timber,” Trump said. “And when I say that, that probably means she is not going to be chosen as the vice president.”
Nevertheless, Trump told Fox News he has his sights set on a running mate if he wins the Republican nomination, even though that pick may not matter.
“Well, it’s never really had that much of an effect on an election, which is an amazing thing, both election and primary,” he said. “It’s never really had much of an effect … It won’t have any impact at all.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tim Scott? Marjorie Taylor Greene? Who does Donald Trump want for VP?