Analysis: Trump’s VP choice may be down to 3. Here’s what each brings.

As Democrats reconsider their presidential ticket amid growing questions about whether President Biden can win in November and serve a second term, the other major presidential ticket is set to take shape shortly.

Former president Donald Trump’s pick for his running mate is due by July 15, when the Republican National Convention kicks off in Milwaukee. Former vice president Mike Pence is out - excommunicated from the MAGA movement for the sin of not trying to overturn the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021 - and someone else will soon be in.

While things can always shift in the final days, particularly with the mercurial Trump, it appears as though his list has winnowed.

The Washington Post’s Marianne LeVine and Josh Dawsey report that conversations have centered on Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) still in the mix. That’s after we learned last month that at least eight contenders were being vetted.

So what would each of the top contenders bring the ticket? Let’s break it down.

Marco Rubio: The pragmatic, just-win-baby pick

We have come a long way since “Little Marco” made a veiled dig at a particular part of Trump’s anatomy during the 2016 campaign.

The pros: Among the three apparent finalists, the Florida senator makes the most sense if the name of the game is winning the 2024 election. He provides a bridge to independent voters and more establishment-oriented Republicans who might have preferred Nikki Haley in the GOP primaries and still aren’t sold on returning Trump to the White House. He’s arguably the next best thing to Haley, whose Trump broadsides are apparently too recent and pronounced for her to be a contender.


Rubio, a Cuban American, would also add diversity to the ticket in a way Vance and Burgum would not, potentially helping Trump and the GOP solidify recent gains with Hispanic voters.

The cons: You’ve got to wonder if Trump, scarred by his experience with Pence, will fear a repeat with Rubio. Pence said all the right things (by Trump’s definition) for four years, until he was asked to do something beyond the pale at the most critical juncture. Trump might regard Rubio as similarly suspect in his loyalties.

For instance, even beyond the 2016 campaign clashes mentioned above, Rubio as recently as 2020 signed off on a bipartisan report that cast a pretty harsh light on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia - a report that was in some ways tougher than the Mueller report.

And then there’s the major residency question. Both men live in Florida, and one has to move if they want the ticket to get all of Florida’s 30 electoral voters. Usually this isn’t a big deal. Dick Cheney just switched his residency from Texas to Wyoming to be George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000. But Rubio is an incumbent senator from Florida, meaning he might have to promise to leave his home state while still serving as its senator. And is Trump really going to go out of his way for his No. 2? For Little Marco?

The bottom line: Trump probably feels better about his chances today than he has in a long time, given the disarray on the Democratic side. And that might argue more for a running mate who’s geared more toward his presidency than his campaign.

J.D. Vance: The MAGA-whisperer pick

The Ohio senator and “Hillbilly Elegy” author’s rise from documenting the seeds of the MAGA movement - and casting a sharply critical eye on its leader - to helping lead it himself would be a remarkable turn of events.

The pros: If Trump wants someone who understands his movement, perhaps even better than he does, and will help him chart a more MAGA course in a second term, Vance is the guy. As mentioned, Vance literally wrote the book on all of this.

Vance has also gone further than a lot of Republicans in hewing to Trump’s particular brand of populist, conspiratorial, nationalist, own-the-libs politics. He has embraced Trumpian causes that other Republicans have kept at arm’s length, even suggesting that he would have done what Pence refused to do on Jan. 6. Perhaps nobody has auditioned as hard for the job, and for a former president who demands fealty and loyalty, Vance would seemingly provide it more than the others.

Vance’s age - he has yet to turn 40, which he does next month - could also be compelling in an election featuring the two oldest major-party candidates in history.

The cons: Vance has aligned much more with Trumpism than Rubio, but he’s got his own harshly critical words about Trump from the 2016 campaign and early in Trump’s presidency. He compared Trump to heroin, wondered whether Trump was America’s Hitler, and liked tweets that linked Trump to sexual assault and criticized his handling of the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Vance could also be a liability on the campaign trail. Not only is he relatively new to politics - having first been elected in 2022 - but he didn’t do particularly well in that campaign. Yes, he won, but he was running in a red-leaning state, and he far underperformed every other statewide Republican on the ballot. That suggests he could alienate some swing voters whom Trump wants to bring into the fold.

The bottom line: Vance is the guy if Trump wants to go full MAGA, and damn the torpedoes.

Doug Burgum: The governing, do-no-harm pick

Nobody in recent history has spent so much money to win so few votes - the North Dakota governor unleashed about $28,000 of his own cash per vote in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries - but he at least put himself on the map for a big and potentially shocking promotion.

The pros: Burgum, a two-term governor, would give Trump an experienced executive (not a senator, in other words) without much (known) baggage. The two also appear to have good personal chemistry, and Trump reportedly views Burgum as an avenue to wealthy donors.

Burgum, who hails from a small town in North Dakota, could also appeal to Midwestern voters in the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - maybe even Minnesota? - in a way the Yale-educated Vance might not. And Trump undoubtedly likes Burgum’s image as a self-made man.

The cons: It’s hard to see who would be excited by Burgum’s selection, and it would seem unlike Trump to pass up the chance to pick someone who would get people talking during the Republican convention and afterward.

[Bowing to Trump, Republicans drop federal abortion ban from platform]


Burgum has also never really looked - or really even played - the part of a MAGA true believer. And his lack of vetting outside of relatively low-profile races in North Dakota could pose problems. So Trump isn’t necessarily getting an ideological ally like Vance or a campaign-booster like Rubio.

The bottom line: If Trump wants to keep the focus on Trump and basically punt on trying to do much of anything (including harm) with this pick, Burgum makes sense.

The wild cards

The five other names that were among the eight candidates we know have been vetted by the Trump campaign are: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and former housing secretary Ben Carson.

Perhaps the most noteworthy exclusion from the presumed three finalists is Scott, the most high-profile elected Black Republican in the country. Trump has hailed Scott’s qualities as a surrogate, and Scott has often been viewed as a VP front-runner.

Stefanik or another female candidate would also make some sense, but the process appears to have moved away from female candidates over time.

The process in 2016 didn’t yield too much of a surprise, as Pence was one of three finalists, but it can never be ruled out.