With Ron DeSantis out of the race and Donald Trump expected to win New Hampshire and South Carolina fairly easily, the 2024 GOP primary is essentially over. Nikki Haley hasn’t gotten the memo yet, but she will soon enough.
So the big question of the campaign is now, “Who will Trump pick as his running mate?”
Former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has some thoughts on this and has urged Trump to make a careful decision to win over the establishment voters he needs to ensure victory.
“I think he [Trump] gets the DeSantis voter, both in the primary and the general. The DeSantis voter tends to be a traditional conservative person of faith, and that naturally translates to Donald Trump. Where I think his challenge is both here and going forward into a general election is winning over the Nikki Haley voter, winning over the establishment voter, winning over the independent, which is why I think that vice presidential pick is so important,” McEnany explained Sunday on Fox News.
“You must pick someone who helps to bring in that bloc because I believe the conservatives, the base, is going to come home, show up, rain or shine,” she continued. “You need the independents, you need the suburban women. You need that tone.”
Will Trump take this advice? While I don’t doubt he’s put a lot of thought into his 2024 running mate, I believe his criteria are much different. What Trump wants in a vice president is someone he believes will be completely loyal to him, not someone who can expand the appeal of his ticket. Why? Because he doesn’t think a running mate matters all that much.
“If you study the history of presidential runs, a vice president has never made a difference — which is surprising,” Trump said earlier this month. “It’s a one-night story, and then they’re back to a regular evening. They’re voting for the president. They’re not voting for the vice president. There has, not that I can think of, never been a vice president that’s made much of a difference in terms of nomination and in terms of even winning the election.”
Despite this, Trump does seem to understand that balancing the ticket is still necessary to expand appeal. When he ran in 2016, he needed an establishment Republican to balance his lack of public sector experience, and he chose Mike Pence.
Pence was not only the governor of Indiana but also a former six-term congressman, bringing legislative and executive experience in the public sector to the ticket. Perhaps more importantly, he also brought strong conservative values, which most certainly made it easier for evangelicals to support Trump at a time when many questioned whether Trump was legitimately conservative.
What’s most interesting about McEnany’s advice is that she seems to be suggesting — without saying it explicitly — that Trump ought to pick Nikki Haley, who is most certainly not who the MAGA base wants. But polls show that she has significant crossover appeal, which may be critical to winning over disenchanted former Biden voters.
Megyn Kelly argued last week that, in light of the Democrats’ blatant abuse of the legal system to imprison Trump, Trump will do whatever it takes to ensure his victory — even if it means picking Nikki Haley as his running mate. And MAGA voters will get on board if Trump tells them to.