Donald Trump is auditioning potential 2024 running mates through both public comments and private meetings, and he's less bound by political rules than the last time he chose Mike Pence to be his vice president.
A dozen Trump advisers and close associates told Politico the twice-impeached one-term president is prioritizing unquestioned personal loyalty and the embrace of his election fraud lies, although he's giving some consideration to balancing the ticket with a woman or candidate of color.
“Once you get past those two issues — loyalty and Trump going more with his gut — Trump has a lot of leeway in who he would pick,” said Tony Fabrizio, Trump’s top pollster in 2016 and 2020. “He's not necessarily looking to balance the ticket geographically, but what he can do is pick to balance gender, race, ethnicity — a lot of different lanes there. It could be everything from a Tim Scott in South Carolina to an Asian American in California, somebody Hispanic in Texas. There are so many choices and paths and there’s lots of time to go.”
Trump recently met with Scott, the first Black senator to be elected in the South since Reconstruction, at his Mar-A-Lago resort, where he also has entertained his former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and he has mentioned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a possible running mate -- although sources suspect that was done to keep the potential 2024 challenger in his place.
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“Trump feels he made DeSantis," said one Trump adviser. "Trump sees him as a competitor, and he’s not going to have someone with better numbers."
Some advisers are pushing for Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez as a possible running mate, and Trump also has reportedly considered Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) as options to boost his chances with women voters, although Nikki Haley and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem both have fallen out of favor with the former president and his inner circle.
“They’re all begging me," Trump told one adviser, who passed along the anecdote to Politico. "They all come here."
Trump likes the idea of choosing a vice presidential candidate who could serve as a loyal adviser, now that his relationship with Pence has been tainted over Jan. 6, and he may choose Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff he huddled with on that day to run alongside him.
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“Don’t rule out a consigliere lane for vice president, a Meadows-type,” one source said. “There were times when Pence occupied that role. No one wants to admit it now. But I observed it. But obviously Jan. 6 changed everything in that relationship.”
Trump insiders also like Pompeo or former acting national security director Ric Grenell, who has one advantage over the former secretary of state and Central Intelligence Agency director.
“Don’t sleep on Ric," said one adviser. "Trump loves him, and unlike Pompeo or anyone else, he has no interest in running for president. That’s a big issue for Trump."