Friends, allies urge Trump to choose a woman or Black man as his running mate

High on that list of names is South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, and Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, all women

By Reuters

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Former US president Donald Trump gestures to his supporters as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago outside a Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Thursday. — Reuters
Former US president Donald Trump gestures to his supporters as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago outside a Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Thursday. — Reuters

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 8:12 PM

Friends and allies of Donald Trump are giving him the names of mostly women and Black men as he seeks their advice on a running mate to join his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, five of them have told Reuters.

One ally who spoke to Reuters said a woman or a Black man as his running mate would be "helpful" to Trump, who needs to improve his standing among both demographics and attract more moderate voters in a likely general election rematch against Democratic President Joe Biden in November.

Four other allies, whose advice Trump has been seeking as he mulls his choice of running mate, have given him names to consider.

High on that list of names is South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, and Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, all women.

Also on the list is South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott, and Ben Carson, Trump's former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, both Black men.

Trump has yet to make a final decision, the allies said, but has been making frequent calls to solicit advice.

"Every day, everywhere he goes, it's, 'What do you think of this person. What do you think of that person?'" one close ally said, describing the nature of Trump's phone calls.

The allies, two of whom have direct knowledge of the inner workings of Trump's campaign, spoke on the condition of anonymity to more freely discuss the issue.

Trump declared at a Fox News town hall in Iowa on Jan. 10 that "I know who it's going to be," when asked about a running mate, but allies say his calls for advice on a choice have continued since then.

A former Trump White House official who is still in touch with the former president said Trump has expressed a preference to choose a woman as he believes that would help his prospects, with Stefanik and Noem high on his list.

A fifth ally said Trump has already compiled a short list.

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about who Trump is considering to be his running mate.

OPPOSITION TO HALEY

There also appears to be broad resistance to picking Nikki Haley, Trump's former U.N. ambassador and last surviving nomination rival, a donor close to Trump said.

Opposition to Haley among some of Trump's allies and within Trump's campaign have intensified in recent days as she has increased attacks on his age - he is 77 - and mental acuity.

Haley ruled out being Trump's running mate on Jan. 19, saying being anybody's vice president was "off the table." Trump said on Jan. 19 he would "probably" not pick her as a running mate.

When he first ran for president in 2016, Trump realized he needed a vice presidential pick who could help shore up support among Republican evangelicals and social conservatives, who were suspicious of the thrice-married reality TV star.

Trump picked Mike Pence, the then Indiana governor and fierce social conservative, a move that allayed fears about Trump on the right-wing of the party and solidified his Republican base.

This year, Trump's allies and Republican strategists say Trump needs help attracting suburban swing voters in a handful of battleground states, where November's election will likely be decided.

With an eye to that general election map, the donor said, "A woman on the ticket could be very helpful. An African-American on the ticket could be very helpful."

ON THE TRAIL FOR TRUMP

Noem, Stefanik, Scott and Carson have worked hard stumping for Trump on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in the Republican primary. Party insiders and strategists see their appearances as auditions for the vice-presidential pick.

Stefanik has become a fiercely loyal Trump surrogate and is a rising star in the Republican Party.

She gained national prominence in December after embarrassing the heads of three top universities about antisemitism on their campuses during a congressional hearing, which prompted two of them to later resign.

Stefanik spoke at a New Hampshire rally on Friday, stopped by a diner on Saturday and later at the Trump campaign headquarters in Manchester.

As she made her way through the crowd to a bank of TV cameras, Stefanik was asked by Reuters if she had discussed with Trump or his aides the vice president role. She declined to comment on that, but added: "I'd be honored to serve in a future Trump administration in any way."

The question prompted a "VP, VP, VP," chant among Trump supporters in attendance.

On Sunday, at another New Hampshire rally, Trump praised Stefanik - but mispronounced her name.

Alex Degrasse, a spokesperson for Stefanik, said the congresswoman "does not discuss her conversations with President Trump."

Noem, serving her second term as South Dakota's governor after a landslide reelection victory in 2022, is close to Trump. She rose to national prominence after refusing to impose a statewide mask mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noem campaigned for and with Trump at several events in Iowa earlier this month, including three stops across the state on Jan. 3.

Before her final speech that day she was asked by CBS News about being Trump's running mate. "I think anybody in this country, if they were offered it, needs to consider it," she replied.

Noem's office referred Reuters to the CBS interview.

Scott was a onetime Republican rival to Trump but dropped out of the race in November, and endorsed Trump on Jan. 19. Both Scott and Carson have been on the campaign trail supporting Trump.

In Concord, New Hampshire on Jan. 19, Scott told a crowd that Trump would lower taxes and unite the country.

Andrew Hughes, a spokesman for Carson, said of Trump's potential pick as a running mate, "That is President Trump's decision and he will make it when he's ready."

A spokesman for Scott declined to comment.

LOYALTY TOP PRIORITY FOR TRUMP

Trump is looking for loyalty and deference in a running mate, the close Trump ally said.

"Remember whose name is on the side of the plane," the ally said.

Sanders, Trump's former press secretary, is seen as fiercely loyal to him and frequently defends his record from the governor's mansion in Arkansas. Asked about being Trump's running mate by CBS News on Jan. 21, she said: "I absolutely love the job I have."

Other names popular with Trump's diehard supporters, judging by enthusiastic reactions to their appearances for Trump in New Hampshire in recent days, are Kari Lake, who narrowly lost a gubernatorial bid in Arizona in 2022 and is now running for the U.S. Senate there, and Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Both are fiercely loyal to Trump and echo his false claim that he won the 2020 election against Biden. But allies view them as too polarizing for a presidential ticket.

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, says Trump is such a huge and polarizing figure himself, it may not matter who he picks.

"It's all about the top of the ticket, especially when the top of the ticket is so dominant a personality as Donald Trump, should he win the nomination," Ayres said.


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