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Pros and cons of Trump VP contenders

Former President Trump’s choice of running mate is generating interest, with the Republican National Convention less than a month away and contenders jockeying to make their case.

Trump’s campaign has sent vetting materials to several people under consideration for the vice president slot on the GOP ticket. The former president has frequently complimented those on his shortlist, but he has kept his cards close to the vest about whom he’ll pick and when he’ll announce.

Here are the pros and cons for each of the top contenders.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R)

Pros: Since dropping his own presidential bid and endorsing Trump in January, Burgum has been a reliably on-message surrogate. He has shown the ability to handle questions about thorny issues, such as Trump’s legal troubles, without drawing attention to himself.

Trump personally likes Burgum and his wife, according to aides for both men, and the two share a history of working in the business world before entering politics. Burgum’s deep pockets could also bolster his case; he spent millions of his own money on his presidential bid.

Cons: Burgum’s failed presidential bid reflected some of his potential downsides as a running mate. He has limited national name recognition and is more of a traditional conservative than a MAGA-style Republican who connects with Trump’s base. 

While Burgum is well-liked as a governor, he does not provide any obvious appeal to voters of color, suburban women or moderates, whom Trump may need to win in November.

Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio)

Pros: Vance has shown he would be one of the fiercest, most loyal attack dogs Trump could pick, with frequent TV appearances to defend the former president over his conduct after the 2020 election, his legal problems and more.

Vance, 39, could counter concerns about Trump’s age. He connects with Trump’s base and is close with Donald Trump Jr. The senator also has strong connections with donors in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Cons: Democrats will undoubtedly resurface his critical comments about Trump around the 2016 election, when he called him “noxious” and “reprehensible.”

Vance is not even 18 months into his first term in a government office, and voters may question his experience. Trump may also prefer to leave Vance in the Senate to lead the charge on his America First agenda in Congress.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Pros: Rubio, 53, would be a more establishment choice who could help Trump win over traditional Republican voters who may have backed Nikki Haley or another choice during the primaries.

The senator’s Cuban American roots and his ability to speak Spanish could be an asset to court Latino voters. Rubio also would bring credibility on foreign policy and other issues from 13 years in the Senate.

Cons: Picking Rubio would resurface the bitter rivalry the two men had during the 2016 campaign, when Trump mocked the senator as “Little Marco” and Rubio returned fire by insulting Trump’s hand size. Rubio’s difficulties during the 2016 primary debates could also be a concern among some Republicans.

Rubio’s Florida residency is a drawback, though it could be resolved. The Constitution states that Electoral College voters can’t vote for a president and vice president from the elector’s state, meaning Rubio would have to relocate or the ticket would risk losing out on Florida’s 30 electoral votes.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

Pros: Picking Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate, could help Trump with outreach to Black voters, a key demographic for the Biden campaign. It would also be a historic pick, making Scott the first Black man to be on a Republican presidential ticket.

Scott, 58, has often discussed his family’s journey from “cotton to Congress” in just a few generations, which may resonate with voters. The senator has also been a fundraising juggernaut, with ties to deep-pocketed donors including Larry Ellison and Ken Griffin.

Cons: Trump has often remarked that Scott has been a better surrogate for the former president than he was for his own failed presidential bid. There could be some concerns about whether Scott is ready for the national spotlight.

There could also be a divide between the men on abortion; Scott previously criticized Trump for refusing to back a federal minimum limit, and the senator said on the trail he would sign “the most conservative pro-life legislation” Congress could pass.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.)

Pros: Some Republicans have clamored for Trump to pick a female running mate to help solidify his standing with crucial suburban women voters. As a mother, Stefanik also could lift that voting bloc.

Stefanik, 39, had long been considered a GOP rising star, and she has broken through in recent years as she defended Trump during his first impeachment, joined GOP leadership and sharply questioned Ivy League presidents on campus antisemitism.

Cons: Before Stefanik was a staunch Trump ally, she was a staffer in the George W. Bush White House and was close with former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Those ties could bother some in Trump’s orbit.

It’s also unclear if Trump would pluck a lawmaker out of the House at a time when the GOP may only have a narrow majority. And Stefanik, having steadily climbed in the leadership ladder in the conference, is a potential asset in the chamber.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

Pros: Cotton, an under-the-radar contender, would be a disciplined messenger who brings military experience and foreign policy chops to the GOP ticket after nine years in the Senate.

Trump also likes Cotton, reportedly having considered him for a Cabinet position during his first term.

Cons: Cotton, 47, doesn’t have much of a national profile, aside from a particularly controversial New York Times op-ed in which he argued Trump should have invoked the Insurrection Act to quell protests across the country following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. 

It’s also unclear whether choosing a senator from deep-red Arkansas would give Trump much of a boost with moderates or other key voting blocs.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.)

Pros: Trump and his team view Donalds, 45, as a strong surrogate for the campaign, as evidenced by his trip to Philadelphia earlier this month to persuade Black men to vote for Trump. 

Donalds is viewed as having a bright future in the party, including as a potential candidate for Florida governor.

Cons: Donalds is only a second-term congressman and has faced less scrutiny than several other contenders. He also faces the same home state issue as Rubio.

Donalds’s comments praising how Black families were “together” and tended to vote conservative during the Jim Crow era drew significant backlash and underscored how he may not be ready for the limelight of a presidential campaign.

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