Is it time to talk about the Trump veepstakes?
For those who remain diehard Never Trumpers or merely Republicans clinging to hope that the former president’s seemingly insurmountable 2024 GOP presidential primary race lead can be whittled down to manageable margins – or zero -- with less than two months to go until the Iowa caucuses, the notion of devoting time and energy to discussing running mate possibilities for the man who already ran twice is not something that’s overly enticing.
Yet with Trump’s polling advantage showing no sign of weakening, some observers are beginning to turn their focus to next year’s pre-Republican National Convention vetting period. Maybe folks are bored, or perhaps they just wish to jump on a task that normally takes a long time to perfect. Of course, Trump already had someone make the journey with him two times before, but Mike Pence isn’t in the picture this time.
Pence recently called off his own presidential bid, having been unable to gain traction vis-à-vis the other candidates with his former boss in the primary race, too – and with the specter of January 6, 2021 still lurking in the background. It was evident from witnessing Pence’s lack of success that anyone who would join Trump to challenge his third general election gauntlet would need his or her own unique set of qualifications, most notably a clean “Trump slate” and a willingness to let the top guy hog nearly all the headlines.
Pence was ideal in this regard. He was the perfect right-hand-man for Trump – up until the final weeks of their administration. It’s safe to say no one is anxious to rehash what happened years ago. The past is gone… at least we hope it is.
For now, speculation rages as to whom Trump will tap when he feels the moment is right. In an article titled “Trump Weighs in on Possible VP Pick and the Left Is Not Taking It Well”, Leah Barkoukis reported at Townhall.com last week:
“Former President Donald Trump hasn’t officially won the GOP nomination yet but given he’s ahead of his closest rival by more than 44 points, he’s got it locked up, barring any unforeseen events. Given that, attention is now shifting to who could possibly serve as his running mate. Some Republicans have positioned themselves to serve in the role, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Kari Lake, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Whether he chooses one of those women or goes a totally different route remains to be seen, of course, but last week, he was asked about one possibility that has rattled the left.
“During an appearance on ‘The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show,’ the former president weighed in on whether former Fox News host Tucker Carlson could be considered for the role.
“’I like Tucker a lot; I guess I would,’ he said. ‘I think I’d say I would, because he’s got great common sense.’”
Barkoukis further reported that the reaction from Trump (and Tucker) haters was somewhat less enthusiastic for such a vision, and that, “Speculation about the possible ticket was further fueled over the weekend when Trump attended UFC 295 in New York with Tucker Carlson, Kid Rock, and UFC President Dana White.”
Well, Don Jr. was there too, so as long as we’re engaging in such flights of wild conjecture, why not include the presidential son and Kid Rock in the Trump veepstakes as well? You may recall that Trump, who makes a habit of floating near-impossibilities as possibilities in his orbit, once declared he would consider his sister, then a federal appeals court judge, for the Supreme Court vacancy created when legendary Justice Antonin Scalia passed unexpectedly in early 2016.
People in the know figured Trump wasn’t serious then, and his campaign subsequently assembled and released the “real” list of potential Supreme Court picks. This key piece in the electability puzzle was credited with helping the Republican convince persuadable independents and conservatives that the New York outsider would be a better president than Crooked Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s sister won’t be under consideration for an open Court slot this time, as Maryanne Trump Barry passed away a couple weeks ago. So, he’d have to look elsewhere for vice president and every other office.
In the meantime, no one’s implying here that Trump would actually think about Kid Rock, Toby Keith or any other conservative-leaning celebrity to run with him, but he also probably isn’t applying serious energy towards naming Tucker Carlson to be his possible vice president, either. Then why would Trump say in an on-the-record media appearance that he’s thinking about Tucker as a candidate? Answer: he was being nice.
There’s little doubt that Trump is fond of Carlson, an honor the 45th president doesn’t confer to a lot of acquaintances. Many conservatives remember the weeks after the 2020 election when Tucker wasn’t buying Trump’s lawyers’ promises of “Unleashing a Kraken” along with numerous other assurances of proof of widespread fraud. Carlson is what he is today because the conservative media host tells it exactly like it is, is eternally suspicious of the DC swamp establishment and doesn’t say stuff just to gain popularity with the “in” Republican crowd.
I, along with many others, have touched on the desirability of Carlson running for office, reasoning he’d be the type of truth-to-power telling populist inspiration this country desperately craves to make progress on restoring America back to some semblance of distinction as the protector of human liberty it used to be. But this isn’t going to happen, folks.
Why? First, Tucker would never agree to be Trump’s errand boy. He’s no senile Joe Biden, put it that way. Tucker Carlson, like Trump, changed the way politics is discussed at the highest echelons of debate – and also at the grassroots level. But this truth doesn’t mean Carlson is hankering for power. Time after time Tucker has rebuffed the contention that he was interested in politics. Not only has Carlson outright denied it, he’s listed his rationale for wanting to keep doing what he’s doing, which is being a talk show host.
So, if Tucker Carlson isn’t bent on running for president, what makes anyone believe he’d be interested in the much less stimulating vice president’s role? Heck, if a cackling brainless Affirmative Action dullard like Kamala Harris can be vice president, any old hunk of living, breathing organic matter can do the same. Carlson is at the center of the conservative commentary universe and he’s still sorting out what he wants to do after Fox (stupidly) fired him.
Finally, the biggest reason why Tucker won’t be veep is Trump truly wouldn’t want Carlson as his running mate. Anyone who’s studied or observed Trump recognizes that the man’s ego would never permit a serious challenger for fame, credit or media attention. But if Trump named Carlson to the Republican ticket, the establishment media would then flock to the talk show host like bears to honey, or… flies to bovine excrement.
It would almost be like it was when John McCain named Sarah Palin as his second-in-line in 2008. Palin was an attractive, entertaining, smart, witty, well-spoken and crowd-pleasing alternative to the boring-to-the-hilt go-along-to-get-along McCain, a nominee so milquetoast and timid that he poopooed the use of Jeremiah Wright against Barack Obama simply because of racism fears – or something like that. Palin, on the other hand, drew massive crowds and grassroots adoration, and the McCain campaign brains couldn’t deal with it. So, they welcomed the media shredding Palin without hardly defending her.
The famous and notoriously combative Carlson wouldn’t be as vulnerable to hostile media smears as Palin was, but Tucker also would receive a similar kind of hate-fest battle from journalists and establishment media talk show hosts. Trump would therefore need to spend a decent amount of his own time answering questions about his running mate’s cult-of-personality, which would only detract from emphasis on the Make America Great Again agenda – and his own responsibility in leading the country back from the brink.
Besides, top-of-the-ticket running mates are almost always named because they add something to the combo that the nominee lacks. Trump is already famous and well-known as it is, and his “brand” is set in stone. Carlson would bring too many unknowns to the chemistry. Therefore, Trump will look elsewhere for a better fit.
There hasn’t been much back-and-forth over a potential Trump vice president of late, so it still appears as though South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is the leading candidate for the job. It’s been rumored for some time that Trump is pondering a woman veep for the 2024 team, and there aren’t an overabundance of potential names that meet the criteria – or are acceptable to Trump.
Establishmentarians will proffer Nikki Haley as an example of a “fusion” type candidate, one who could unite the Trump MAGA crowd with the party elites – and maybe even bring along some Never Trump holdouts. But I don’t think Trump would want Haley in close proximity to his person for four years. Plus, Haley’s foreign policy views and partiality towards forever wars is completely unharmonious with Trump’s “America First” orientation.
There’s a loyalty concern, too, since Haley has been less than flattering of Trump in her own presidential campaign, openly stating that he’s the most divisive politician in America – and that he’s too old to perform the duties of the office. Nikki would have a heck of a time explaining away these quotes if Trump were to choose her.
For some things, the proverbial bell will not be un-rung.
Some optimistic folks maintain that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would bring all the right bona fides to the ticket, but here, again, I don’t believe there’s room in either man’s ego to make it work. By nature, Trump and DeSantis are leaders who wouldn’t want to share the final say on the most crucial matters. Gov. Ron and Trump don’t seem to be the best of friends, either.
Time and events will reveal whether one, Trump continues to lead the 2024 GOP race and two, when he feels the time is right to toss out real hints as to who he will choose to run with him. Speculation is always fun – and even to dream about Tucker Carlson being the one – but Trump, as always, will be the lone decider. Trump’s political instincts are usually right on. The future will provide the answers.
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