Trump’s VP shortlist, ranked by 'Pence-proof' loyalty

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Former President Donald Trump knows from the real estate business the three words that most affect property values: “location, location, and location.”

As the presumptive Republican presidential nominee ponders selecting a new running mate, he also knows the impact of “loyalty, loyalty, and loyalty,” believing that on Jan. 6, 2021, his “disloyal” former vice president thwarted his grandiose plans for retaining power.

While Trump does not explicitly state “loyalty” as a prerequisite, vice presidential wannabees subliminally hear the word replayed on MAGA megaphones and act accordingly, lured by the opportunity to be one heartbeat away from the presidency behind an overweight, high-strung man who turns 78 on June 14.   

Thus, ambitious vice presidential “shortlist” candidates are deaf to the warnings of Mike Pence, Trump’s once uber-loyal vice president. Notably, on August 1, 2023, when Trump was indicted for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election, Pence said, “President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution, and I always will.”

In March, Pence announced that he would not endorse Trump for president, which some consider a historic snub.

Prior to Jan. 6, Pence had demonstrated unflinching loyalty to Trump, his administration, and the two presidential campaigns. With that “except” in mind, however, it now appears Trump is trying to “Pence-proof” the vice presidency with loyalists who, if confronted with a Jan. 6-type crisis, might even choose Trump over the Constitution.

Below, ranked in order of “Pence-proof” loyalty, are Trump’s four most likely running mates.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.): Age 39 (40 in July)

If loyalty is Trump’s number one criterion, then Stefanik belongs at the top of his list. She is the headline-grabbing, third-ranked House Republican and, since 2021, has chaired the House Republican Conference. Stefanik personifies Trump-loyalty, endorsing him for president a week before Trump even made his official announcement on Nov. 15, 2022.

In February, she aced the Pence-proof loyalty test. During a CNN interview, when asked about Jan. 6, 2021, Stefanik said, “I would not have done what Mike Pence did. I don’t think that was the right approach.”

Proving Stefanik is a contestant in a league of her own, last Sunday in Jerusalem, she addressed the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. When she forcefully denounced President Biden’s policy of withholding heavy weapons if Israel invaded Rafah in Gaza, the White House blasted her back.

From Israel, Stefanik made more Trump-pleasing headlines appearing on “Fox News Sunday.” In a testy exchange, she pushed back against host Shannon Bream’s questions about documented statements by Stefanik herself from 2016, criticizing Trump’s treatment of women after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape had been released.

Stefanik is a legal attack dog. This week, she filed an ethics complaint against Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over Trump’s “hush money” case in Manhattan. Similarly, she filed complaints against Special Prosecutor Jack Smith and Judge Arthur Engoron, who had presided over Trump’s civil fraud trial.

Trump had said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he liked “the concept” of a female running mate and called Stefanik “a killer” at a Mar-a-Lago dinner.

Since the Harvard-educated Stefanik has the loyalty chops and guts to be Trump’s running mate, she is well-positioned for a debate fight with Vice President Kamala Harris.

VP assessment: A young, bold choice that could attract suburban women voters.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio): Age 39 (40 in August)

Vance owes his seat to the former president, which guarantees his loyalty.

In return, and as a shortlist contender, Vance played the Pence-proof veep card this month on CNN, when he questioned the well-documented physical danger that Pence experienced on Jan. 6, when rioters at the Capitol called for his hanging. “I’m truly skeptical that Mike Pence’s life was ever in danger. I think politics and political people like to really exaggerate things from time to time.” Music to Trump’s ears.

Vance is trying hard to break his 2016 “double album of disloyalty” — he had once told a roommate that Trump “might be America’s Hitler,” and at one point tweeted of Trump, “My god, what an idiot.” Nonetheless, the prospect of presidential power trumps all, and Vance’s new tune, “I was wrong about him,” debuted May 12 on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The next day, Vance appeared at Trump’s hush money trial, earning extra loyalty points.

VP assessment: A high-risk, low-reward, boring choice that does not enhance Trump’s ticket.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.): Age 58

Scott, who oozes loyalty and love for Trump, appears high on the vice presidential shortlist. During his own failed 2024 presidential primary campaign, the Black conservative senator never criticized Trump and called the former president’s fourth indictment “un-American.”

The love-fest really began after Scott dropped out and endorsed Trump on January 19. At Trump’s New Hampshire primary victory speech, he asked Scott why the senator supported him over former Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who had appointed Scott to fill a Senate vacancy in 2012. Scott’s retort to Trump: “I just love you.”

This month, Scott displayed Pence-proof loyalty cred during an awkward argumentative interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” When host Kristen Welker continually pressed the senator about accepting the 2024 presidential election results, he refused to give a straight answer — ensuring a top seed on Trump’s shortlist and perhaps a historic-looking vice presidential match against Kamala Harris.

VP assessment: Another bold choice that could appeal to African American voters in swing states.

Gov. Doug Burgum (R): Age 67

The two-term North Dakota governor is this year’s political breakout star. Not only is Burgum a self-made multi-millionaire who could write campaign checks, but while campaigning with Trump, a “bro-connection” has developed. Showing loyalty, Burgum attended and spoke outside Trump’s hush money trial.

The governor has received good press as a normal, earnest man with a central-casting look that appeals to Trump. On the downside, in 2016, Burgum bashed Trump, and his Pence-proof loyalty levels remain unproven.

A transactional White House relationship and, at the very least, a cabinet post is expected based on mutual respect.

VP assessment: Overall, a low-risk but low-reward choice. A mature, wealthy, intelligent business “buddy” who might boost the ticket as a “national insurance policy” in the worst-case scenario.

Myra Adams served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns, in 2004 and 2008.

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