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Who will Trump anoint as his vice-presidential running mate?

Clockwise, from top left: Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, former U.S. president Donald Trump, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla.,  Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.,  House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (Composite image made from AP Photos) Clockwise, from top left: Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, former U.S. president Donald Trump, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (Composite image made from AP Photos)
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On Jan. 6, 2021 at 2:24 p.m, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter and stated: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done …”

That response to Vice-President Mike Pence’s refusal to break with the constitution and certify a free and fair election set off a horrific chain of events that left four dead, 174 police officers injured and the U.S. Capitol in ruins.

Now, political onlookers are reading the tea leaves to determine who exactly Trump might select to serve as his running mate in 2024.

Not much has changed since that fateful day. Undoubtedly, the presumptive GOP nominee’s first choice for a running mate will be someone who will, in fact, have the “courage” to flout the constitution; the law that undergirds it; and years of precedence. This, to assure above all, that Trump’s wishes and desires are elevated above the principle bedrocks of American democracy.

A Jan. 6, 2021 tweet from former U.S. President Donald Trump regarding former U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is seen on a screen during a hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on on June 16, 2022 (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images)

The constitution names the vice-president of the United States as the president of the senate. In addition to serving as presiding officer, the vice-president has the sole power to break a tie vote in the senate and formally presides over the receiving and counting of electoral ballots cast in presidential elections.

While the influence and scope of the job has certainly grown over the years, the only two roles mandated by the framers involved overseeing the senate and certifying elections.

However, as Trump, now a convicted felon, continues to attack the rule of law and the tenents that buttress the foundation of the nation, his vice-presidential pick will take on an entirely new meaning: that of helping Trump fortify his power should he be elected in November.

Pence was a pick that assuaged concerns and fears of a Republican establishment deeply worried about a novice and mercurial GOP nominee. A dyed in the wool conservative with legislative and executive experience, Pence provided the imprimatur that unlocked the financial backing and infrastructure of the GOP to a nascent Trump candidacy.

Eight years later, the republican apparatus still firmly in his grip, Trump this time is seeking loyalty and fealty above all else. Therefore, favourable traits such as universal name recognition; executive experience; or even invaluable electoral votes do not hold sway in the Trump brain trust when selecting a running mate.

Only one’s penchant for taking a sledgehammer to the rule of law in support of MAGA will be the overarching factor in winning this year’s ‘veepstakes.’

Widely discussed names

As evidence, such names that have been widely discussed include; Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Ohio Senator J.D. Vance; Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton; South Carolina Senator Tim Scott; New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik; Florida Congressman Byron Donalds, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

Glaring drawbacks hinder some more than others. For example, the constitution bars presidents and vice-presidents from representing the same state. Therefore, Rubio and Donalds could be excluded unless they change their residency or forgo the 30 electoral votes alloted by the Sunshine State.

Moreover, the narrow margins that will likely determine control of both chambers of Congress could keep the Trump campaign from selecting Stefanik, a senior leader of the House Republican Conference. This leaves Cotton, Scott, Vance, and Burgum, with no obvious and glaring drawbacks.

Still, none of the potential picks put key battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in play for the Trump campaign. Additionally, none of the potential picks cut into U.S. President Joe Biden’s current lead with independent or Latino voters.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 (Andrew Harnik / AP Photo)

Sen. Tim Scott is reportedly high on the list and has been highly touted by the ex-president. However, as one of only a handful of African-Americans serving in the U.S. Senate, his presidential campaign did not gain any traction with Black voters or other key constituencies that Trump will need to successfully court in the lead up to November. Yet, what Scott does appear to have in common with the other names on list of potential running mates is an unquestionable willingness to do Trump’s bidding.

Polling data continues to show a race that could be very close and won on the margins in just a handful of states. Yet, to date, there is still no evidence of any discernible nationwide infrastructure on the horizon by the Trump campaign. A ground operation remains elusive and aside from last quarters fundraising haul that outpaced the incumbent, the Republican challenger continues to trail in fundraising. In fact, the Trump campaign is operating even more unconventionally than in 2016.

The list of potential running mates further amplifies the notion of a campaign eschewing traditional political standards in favour of a more disruptive framework. Perhaps one pearl of truth Trump is leaning on is that no running mate in recent U.S. history was deemed to win or lose the presidency as a potential VP pick.

Moreover, for a man and candidate singularly driven by power, the VP pick is less about securing victory and more about maintaining absolute and irrefutable control post-victory. The ex-president still harbors deep resentment for Pence’s ‘failure’ and as the race remains clearly up for grabs, Trump is vowing to right a wrong that has fueled his ire for eight long years should he secure victory.

The labyrinth of power binding American democracy is manifold and winding. Clearly, Trump is on an insatiable quest to crack the code that eventually leads to its undoing. It’s a journey that returns him back to power, and can only be fulfilled with a running mate not bound by morality or conscience, but bound by fear and fealty.

The person who most embodies these traits will be anointed. For many are called but only one can be chosen.

Eric Ham is a bestselling author and former congressional staffer in the U.S. Congress. He served as a contributor to TheHill.com and The Washington Diplomat. He resides in Washington, DC.

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