Trump’s veep auditions morph into perp walk

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How low can Trump politics go? The search for the GOP vice presidential nominee has devolved into a perp walk. 

Donald Trump is a master manipulator. He faces jail time for contempt of court if he criticizes the judge in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. So, he got his flying monkeys to do the dirty work for him. 

Some people will do anything to advance their political careers. Four Republican veep wannabees showed up at Trump’s trial to bend their knee to Trump and kick Judge Juan Merchan’s backside. On cue, just like an episode of “The Apprentice,” Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy all showed up to audition for the man accused of covering up his affair with an adult film actress.  

I’m sure each of them earned brownie points from Trump for showing up at his trial to lose their dignity.  

But being his running mate isn’t without risk. An official in the Trump administration Situation Room, Mike Stiegler, told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos that former Vice President Mike Pence came close to being killed on Jan. 6, 2021, when MAGA rioters attempted to prevent the certification of the duly elected President-elect Joe Biden. 

The issue of Trump’s running mate and the need for a female running mate has bubbled to the surface of the MAGA swamp recently for a variety of reasons. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was a frontrunner for the nod, but her dogged pursuit of the job killed her candidacy. 

The salacious testimony during Trump’s trial has raised fears among some Republicans that the revelations about his extramarital affair with Stormy Daniels may further antagonize female voters who are already supportive of President Biden. 

And Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, continues to persist. Tuesday, she received 20 percent of the presidential primary vote in Maryland, two months after she dropped out of the race. Trump has bushed off her consistent support, but her voters are prime targets for the Biden reelection effort.

She is one of a cast of thousands who may receive consideration for the No. 2 spot on the Trump ticket.

There will be great interest in Trump’s choice for a running mate. First, the situation on the other side of the aisle is drama free with another run for the Democratic duo of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the cards. 

Then, there are concerns about Trump, who turns 78 in June, and his mental health, which came up again recently at a rally in New Jersey when he confused former tennis great Jimmy Connors with former President Jimmy Carter.   

On top of that, his legal problems could jeopardize his political future. If he’s convicted of election interference in Georgia or fraud in the Daniels hush money case in New York City, the Republican National Committee might need to pick his running rate to run for president.

If Trump weren’t Trump, he would rush to bring Haley onto his ticket. His calling card in his primary wins has been his angry and bellicose temperament, which the MAGA faithful can’t seem to get enough of. But the anger doesn’t work as well with the swing voters who are tired of his invective. 

Haley is the perfect remedy. She shares Trump’s extremist positions on abortion and immigration, but she does it with Southern charm and a smile on her face. She’s an extremist like Trump but not nearly as bombastic. 

Her persistence while she was in the GOP race with withering criticisms of Trump indicated she has an independent streak, which is the last thing Trump wants in a running mate, even if it helps him win. 

After the ugly breakup with Pence, Trump is more likely to pick a running mate who will follow him to the depths of hell and beyond. 

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is the Trump flavor of the month. An African-American on the ticket might take the edge off his racist rhetoric. The senator hasn’t shown up to court yet, but he has criticized Trump’s prosecution from afar. 

But a woman on the ticket would pay more of a dividend for the GOP’s favorite son.  

Whether MAGA nation likes it or not, women dominate contemporary culture. The “Barbie” movie was a blockbuster and Taylor Swift dominates popular culture. Beyonce recently topped the Trump-friendly county music charts. Then there’s the media fixation on basketball star Caitlin Clark and the soaring interest in the WNBA. Trump ignores this “Year of the Woman” at his own peril.  

Trump faces an enormous gender gap. The choice of a woman might minimize the hostility female voters exhibit towards the former president.  

Rep. Elise Stefanik from upstate New York is the current favorite in the GOP veepstakes. She could get the nod simply because she took down two Ivy League presidents, which is catnip for the Trump base of anti-establishment voters without a college degree. At 39, she’s young enough to add some vitality to the ticket of the defendant who regularly dozes off during his trial. 

She appears to have interest in the job. She demonstrated her deference to Trump and recently deleted her 2021 statement that criticized the hostile takeover of the Capitol by an angry pro-Trump mob. She also indicated that she would have not signed off on certification of the electoral vote count on 2020 as Pence did. I’m sure Trump took notice of her eagerness to please. 

The choice of a female running mate would create a media frenzy. The selection would lead to a historic confrontation between two women in the nationally televised vice-presidential debate that will probably air nationally after the Republican National Convention in late July or early August. 

But once that debate is over, his running mate will be elbowed aside because Trump doesn’t like to share the limelight with anybody, much less a woman. 

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster, CEO of Bannon Communications Research and the host of the popular progressive podcast on power, politics and policy, Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon.

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