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Trump’s VP: Ranking the candidates from most likely to least

The Republican presidential primary calendar won’t officially kick off until the Jan. 15, 2024, Iowa caucuses, but former President Trump’s dominant position in the polls has already sparked chatter about who could join him on a general election ticket.

Trump is leading his primary rivals by an average of 60 percent at the national level and more than 20 percent in state surveys, creating a sense that the nomination is his to lose.

Some have started to look beyond the primary calendar and toward a rematch between Trump and President Biden, with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and others weighing in on who should join Trump on the GOP ballot.

Trump himself has offered fleeting insights into his view on a potential running mate. He told NBC’s Kristen Welker in a September interview that he liked the concept of picking a woman, “but we’re going to pick the best person.”

Here’s a look at some of the politicians seen as possible Trump running mates, ranked from most likely to less likely.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

Noem for some time has been seen as a favorite to be Trump’s next running mate.

She has made clear she would be interested in the job, and she is one of the rare potential picks who Trump has publicly acknowledged would be on his list of possible candidates.

“Oh, absolutely,” Noem said on Newsmax in September when asked whether she would consider a slot on the ticket with Trump. “I would in a heartbeat.”

<em>Trump appears with Noem in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sept. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)</em>
Trump appears with Noem in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sept. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

As governor of a deep red state, she has enacted significant abortion restrictions and banned transgender women from participating on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

She passes the loyalty test, which is key for Trump: She’s already endorsed him in the 2024 race. The 52-year-old’s gender and relative youth would also bring balance to the ticket alongside 77-year-old Trump.


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Noem doesn’t represent a swing state, which could be a strike. And she’s been advised by Corey Lewandowski, a longtime member of Trump’s orbit who has at times generated controversy.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

Trump has made it clear that he’d like to attract more voters of color to his side, and picking a high-profile African-American GOP senator could help him.

Scott, 58, is well-respected in the Senate, and his presidential candidacy featured few direct attacks against Trump. The former president in turn notably held his fire against Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate.

<em>Trump shakes hands with Scott during a working session regarding the Opportunity Zones provided by tax reform in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 14, 2018. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)</em>
Trump shakes hands with Scott during a working session regarding the Opportunity Zones provided by tax reform in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 14, 2018. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Scott has proven to be a strong fundraiser, he worked with the Trump administration to develop opportunity zones for low-income communities, and his public discussion of his faith could ease any lingering concerns among the religious right.

But when he dropped out of the 2024 race in November, Scott declined to endorse another candidate, and he appeared to shut down the possibility of joining the ticket as vice president.

“Being vice president has never been on my to-do list for this campaign, and it’s certainly not there now,” Scott said.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.)

Stefanik, 39, had long been considered a rising star in the Republican Party before she became one of the most loyal Trump supporters in the House and rose up the House GOP leadership ranks.

She served on Trump’s impeachment defense team, endorsed him ahead of his 2024 campaign launch and has backed him amid his mounting legal battles. The congresswoman earned more points with Trump and his team last month when she filed a judicial ethics complaint against the New York judge handling Trump’s civil fraud trial.

<em>Trump listens as Stefanik speaks before signing a $716 billion defense policy bill named for John McCain at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Aug. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)</em>
Trump listens as Stefanik speaks before signing a $716 billion defense policy bill named for John McCain at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Aug. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Stefanik, who was elected to Congress at age 30 in 2014, would give Trump a younger running mate who might appeal to women and suburban voters. But it’s unclear if the congresswoman, who hails from northern New York, would provide as much of an electoral edge as other potential candidates.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Sanders, 41, rose to national prominence as Trump’s White House press secretary, defending the then-president and sparring with media outlets such as CNN on a near-daily basis.

She left the administration on good terms and has since built her own political brand in becoming the first woman to serve as governor of Arkansas. Sanders delivered the GOP response to President Biden’s State of the Union earlier this year, and she endorsed Trump last month at a Miami rally, describing him as “my former boss, my friend, and everybody’s favorite president.”

<em>Sanders, during her tenure as White House press secretary, is introduced by Trump during a campaign rally in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on <em>Nov. 5, 2018</em>. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)</em>
Sanders, during her tenure as White House press secretary, is introduced by Trump during a campaign rally in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Nov. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Sanders’s standing in her home state could be problematic, though. An annual poll conducted by the University of Arkansas found 48 percent of those in the state approve of her job as governor, the lowest rating for an Arkansas governor since her father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), polled at 47 percent in 2003.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.)

Donalds is a fast-rising star in the House GOP who earlier this week expressed openness to the idea of running alongside Trump.

“If that’s something that’s open to me, would I do that? Yeah, I would, because I want to do everything possible to help get our country on track, because despite our political disagreements in America, we are the best country in the world. It ain’t close,” Donalds told SiriusXM about whether he’d accept an offer to join the ticket.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.)
Donalds leaves the Capitol following the last votes of the week on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. (Greg Nash)

Donalds, 45, is one of the most high-profile Black Republicans in Congress.

He endorsed the Trump campaign back in April — picking the former president over a fellow Floridian, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), in what was seen as a major boost for the Trump campaign over his primary rival.

Nikki Haley

Haley seems a less likely pick as Trump’s VP right now, since she’s emerged as a real challenger in the presidential race.

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, Haley has been steadily rising in the polls since launching her campaign in February.

To be sure, Haley is now focused on her own race, and she is out to be the presidential nominee for Republicans, not someone’s running mate.

But it’s not as if strong GOP rivals to an eventual presidential nominee haven’t become vice presidential candidates in the past.

<em>Trump meets with Haley in the Oval Office of the White House on Oct. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)</em>
Trump meets with Haley in the Oval Office of the White House on Oct. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As a woman of color calling for a new generation of leadership, Haley could help diversify the ticket. Some Republicans, including former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), have argued Haley would be the best choice to balance out Trump’s weaknesses in a general election.

The big question, of course, is whether Trump would ever be willing to put Haley on the ticket.

Trump has viewed Haley’s decision to seek the 2024 nomination after initially saying she wouldn’t challenge him as a deep show of disloyalty, hurling insults at her and calling her “birdbrain.” The two also have their differences on key issues, such as U.S. support for Ukraine.

Polls show Haley leading Biden by wider margins than Trump in hypothetical match-ups in most cases, an asset that could ultimately become a problem for Trump if Haley overshadows him.

Mike Pompeo

Pompeo served as Trump’s secretary of State and CIA director during his first term, and the former Kansas congressman ultimately passed on a 2024 presidential bid of his own.

Pompeo would bring foreign policy experience and a relationship with some members of the Hill from his three terms in the House.

<em>Pompeo listens to Trump during a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)</em>
Pompeo listens to Trump during a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on July 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

While declining to challenge Trump directly prevented a wider feud between the two men, Pompeo has at times taken veiled swipes at his old boss, particularly over the national debt and the Republican Party’s track record in elections since Trump was first elected.

Vivek Ramaswamy

An entrepreneur who saw a brief surge in the polls this summer in part by emulating Trump’s freewheeling style, Ramaswamy has effusively praised the former president at nearly every turn of his own 2024 campaign, prompting speculation he’s eyeing a slot on the ticket alongside Trump.

Ramaswamy has described Trump as the “best president of the 21st century” and promised to pardon Trump immediately if he is elected to the White House.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy addresses the Family Research Council’s Pray Vote Stand Summit in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2023.

Trump has taken notice, praising Ramaswamy in August and suggesting “he’d be very good” as a potential vice president. One of Ramaswamy’s top staffers left for the Trump campaign in late November, signaling further overlap between the two men.

Ramaswamy is politically inexperienced, however, and his unfavorability rating has nearly doubled since the first primary debate in August, according to a FiveThirtyEight average of polls.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)

The second-term congresswoman is one of Trump’s most loyal and outspoken supporters, but choosing to put her on a presidential ticket would also be a major risk given her knack for attracting controversy.

In August, Greene said she would be “honored” to run on a ticket with Trump. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon told NBC News earlier this year that he believes Greene “sees herself on the short list” for Trump’s vice president.

<em>Greene waves while Trump points to her as they look over the 16th tee during a LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., on July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)</em>
Greene waves while Trump points to her as they look over the 16th tee during a LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., on July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Greene has repeatedly downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol, cast doubt on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, pushed false claims about the 2020 election being rigged and has spread antisemitic conspiracy theories.

As a result, many don’t see her as a serious vice presidential possibility, since she could turn away many of the swing and independent voters Trump would need to win in a general election.

In Greene’s case, loyalty to Trump would have to be the winning card to being selected.

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