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A Look Inside Trump’s VP-Picking Process

With the United States presidential election just around the corner, all eyes are on Donald Trump. Despite the news of his conviction ringing loudly in Americans ears, Trump still looks likely to return to the White House. However, we still don't know who his running mate will be.

Honestly, I wasn’t ready to tune into the election news cycle just yet. That is, until I heard that one of his potential picks (Governor Kirsti Noem) had tried to justify puppy murder. Wait, let me rephrase. Until I heard Governor Kirsti Noem justifying her decision to murder an innocent puppy because Cricket (the 14-month-old dog in question) was “useless for hunting and a danger to chickens.” As if that wasn’t enough, she also confessed to killing a goat. You read that right; she confessed to these heinous acts in her upcoming memoir as an example that she’s willing “to do anything “difficult, messy and ugly” if it simply needs to be done.” The world is officially a nightmare.

Over the decades, many VPs have grumbled about the role being entirely futile. In fact, “John Adams, the first vice president, described the position as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.”” In other words, VP has never been the end goal for American politicians. While the scope of the role has undoubtedly expanded over the years, with the VP steadily gaining more stature and influence during the late 20th century, it’s still viewed as a stepping stone to the presidency. Joe Biden is a prime example of this. As are the other 17 VPs that have launched a presidential campaign.

That being said, who you pick as your VP is vital. Not because they make a huge difference in  the role or wield a bunch of power, but because they reflect the prospective president’s decision-making abilities.

In American politics, VP picks are used to ‘balance the ticket’. This essentially means that they make up for any qualities that the primary candidate might lack. For instance, in 2008, 71-year-old Arizonan Senator John McCain chose Sarah Palin (the young, female governor of Alaska) to help appeal to a younger demographic as well as rival the youthful Obama campaign. With the age of presidents only increasing - Trump and Biden are no spring chickens, at 77 and 81, respectively - I would be shocked if youth wasn’t high on the list of criteria for Trump’s running mate.

By choosing someone who both draws in more voters and, consequently, makes you look like a competent leader, you’re giving yourself a major advantage. Take Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris for his second-in-command. After Trump, everyone was looking for a radical change, much as they were when the liberal Democrat Barack Obama was elected to replace the staunch Republican George W. Bush, who had just completed 8 years in office. This is why Biden selecting Harris was an ingenious move. She was able to provide a fresh perspective, especially when compared to the Republican ticket of two old white men. Additionally, having a woman in the second highest office of the land offered a strong message of positive progress while still being palatable to the general population.

Interestingly, Mike Pence, Trump’s previous VP, has directly stated that he is not willing to run with Trump again “for a number of policy-related decisions.” While this may seem like a significant knife in the back, Pence’s rebukes haven't significantly impacted Trump’s chances of winning the White House. As a consequence, Trump has been forced to choose a new running mate. This gives the former president an opportunity to broaden his voter base as well as refresh his campaign strategy. While the Biden-Harris ticket seems doomed to evoke memories of 2020, the Trump campaign can offer something new to voters—something that just might cement their victory. Not to mention, in Trump’s mind, this is also a way to find a MAGA politician who will blindly follow orders, allowing him to realise all his failed visions from his first presidency.

To make an impact this November, the Republican candidate must ensure that he controls every aspect of his image and the media narrative surrounding his campaign, which starts with the person standing beside him. Therefore, his choice of VP will inevitably be a carefully calculated decision that his team will deliberate over at length. Be that as it may, the speculation around Trump’s VP pick just goes to show that no matter who’s vying for the top job, the question of who ends up becoming VP will only ever be another play in the game of politics.


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