Trump is trying to turn the GOP race into a vice presidential call

Donald J. Trump has won just one contest for the nomination, but his potential running mates are already outnumbering his presidential campaign rivals.

As he pursues a victory over Nikki Haley in New Hampshire that would send him on a slippery slope to the nomination, Mr. Trump appears to be holding out on-stage invitations to possible vice-presidential candidates at his rallies and other events.

His goals are clear: to demonstrate the sheer breadth of his institutional support in the Republican Party. Add a sense of inevitability to the race. And, of course, see which subordinates will smear him the most.

On Friday alone, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, Senator JD Vance of Ohio and Representative Elise Stefanik of New York rallied his supporters. Mrs. Stefanik held another event on Saturday.

The presence of all three, each of whom maintains a close relationship with Mr. Trump, generated headlines and galvanized his base.

But joining Trump’s list can come with risks. Former Vice President Mike Pence ran twice with Mr. Trump, but his refusal to violate the Constitution to help overturn the 2020 election led to Trump supporters storming the Capitol and threatening to hang him. Mr. Pence and his family were forced to hide inside the Capitol to avoid the mob.

Mr. Scott’s stock appeared to rise with Mr. Trump after his endorsement of the former president on Friday, a move that demonstrated the genial senator’s loyalty and his surprising capacity for ruthlessness. In selecting Mr. Trump, Mr. Scott brutally rejected Ms. Haley, his fellow countryman and the woman who appointed him to the Senate.

Mr. Scott’s remarks at a Trump rally in Concord on Friday projected an exciting energy often missing from his own presidential bid, which he ended in November.

The crowd matched his excitement with chants of “VP,” and Mr. Scott ended his fiery call-and-response speech by shouting with the crowd: “We need Donald Trump.”

Mr. Trump has noted Mr. Scott’s transformation.

“He was great, wasn’t he?” Mr. Trump told a Republican consultant after the rally, who insisted on anonymity to describe the private conversation.

Mr. Trump’s enthusiasm was a marked change from a year ago, when, after Mr. Scott’s lackluster debate performance, the former president raised eyebrows among some aides with offhand comments that the South Carolinian was not getting much coverage.

Ms. Stefanik also looked like an increasingly decent bet to be Mr. Trump’s vice president, winning acclaim across the conservative world for her role in ousting two elite university presidents after a contentious hearing on anti-Semitism and campus protests.

At his rally on Friday, Mr. Trump praised Ms. Stefanik, a former backbencher who jumped to become House No. 4 leader.

“Elise became very famous,” he said of her cajoling of the college president, describing her interrogation as surgical. “Wasn’t it nice?”

One potential problem with Stefanik’s pick: Mr. Trump mispronounced her last name as “STEH-fuh-nick” instead of “steh-FAH-nick.”

On Saturday, Trump supporters also greeted Mrs Stefanik with chants of “VP” as she visited the former president’s campaign office in Manchester with volunteers.

“I would be honored — I’ve said it for a year — to serve in the next Trump administration in any capacity,” she told reporters.

At the Saddle Up Saloon in Kingston, NH, Mr. Vance mingled with dozens of Trump supporters as reporters asked about his prospects for joining the presidential ticket.

Mr. Vance, the best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” suggested he would be better served in the Senate during Trump’s second term than as vice president. Still, Mr. Vance said, he would have to think about such an offer.

“I want to help him as much as I can,” he said.

Mr. Trump agonized over his 2016 vice-presidential pick, switching potential picks almost up to the moment of announcement.

But throughout this campaign, Mr. Trump has teased his choice for vice president before the first nominating contest last week in Iowa, where he told Fox News he had decided on a vice presidential running mate but declined to offer a name. Still, a formal announcement may be a long way off: several people close to Mr. Trump have suggested privately that his comment was more show than serious.

In Iowa, Mr. Trump also recruited a number of potential candidates to campaign for him: Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona; and Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

But the VP’s cries grew much louder in New Hampshire.

At an event in Atkinson on Tuesday, Vivek Ramaswamy made an impassioned defense of Mr Trump – less than a day after ending his own bid for the White House, most of which he spent praising the former president.

When the audience chanted “VP! VP!” for Mr. Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur from Ohio, Mr. Trump returned the approval.

Mr. Ramaswamy, the former president said, “will work with us for a long time.”

Ms. Haley, who served in Mr. Trump’s administration as ambassador to the United Nations, has long been mentioned as a potential candidate.

But during a speech on Friday in Concord, Mr Trump appeared to dismiss that possibility.

“She is not presidential material,” he said. “When I say that, it probably means she’s not going to be elected vice president.”

Neil Vigdor contributed reporting from Kingston, NH

Leave a Comment