Trump’s veepstakes intensify as former rival rises to the top of the pile

Onetime primary opponent could be Donald Trump’s next number two in the White House

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 16 June 2024 18:07 BST
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SNL season finale teases Donald Trump's vice president picks

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Donald Trump may be on the verge of setting aside another grudge within the Republican Party and elevating a former rival to be his running mate in 2024.

The former president is reportedly considering three names as his current top choices to be the GOP’s vice presidential nominee as he gears up for a rematch with President Joe Biden this fall.

With his last vice president, Mike Pence, refusing to endorse him, Trump’s list of potential choices has shrunk to include only Republicans who the former president is sure will serve as a loyal yes-man in a hypothetical second administration.

And one of the three is a longtime sparring partner: his former 2016 primary opponent, Florida Senator Marco Rubio. The senator, famously dubbed “Lil’ Marco” by then-candidate Trump, bowed out of the race after a crushing defeat in his home state eight years ago.

Trump has spoken to confidantes and advisers repeatedly in recent weeks about his latest top choices, according to The Washington Post, and earlier in June joined the conservative outlet Newsmax for an interview in which he mentioned Rubio specifically.

“Governor Burgum from North Dakota has been incredible. Marco Rubio has been great. J.D. Vance has been great. We’ve had so many great people out there — Ben Carson,” Trump said. Burgum and Vance, the governor of North Dakota and senator from Ohio respectively, are thought to be the other two names at the top of his list.

Rubio’s inclusion is notable in part due to his reversal on his view of Trump, the man. In 2016, he repeatedly attacked his opponent’s character and even made one crude remark which appeared to reference Trump’s manhood.

“Have you seen his hands?” he said in 2016. “[Y]ou know what they say about men with small hands?”

Trump, in return, insulted Rubio (as well as his other GOP opponents) mercilessly.

Marco Rubio is seen on Capitol Hill. The Florida senator is thought to be near the top of Donald Trump’s shortlist for VP
Marco Rubio is seen on Capitol Hill. The Florida senator is thought to be near the top of Donald Trump’s shortlist for VP (Getty Images)

Trump has yet to schedule a formal announcement of his running mate. The Post has reported that Trump may even wait until the week of the GOP convention in July to make his pick.

Carson, too, ran for the GOP nomination in 2016, and Burgum ran against Trump earlier this year. But neither man took any sort of antagonistic tone towards the ex-president, and have instead become some of his most vocal allies. Burgum said in 2023 that he would not serve as Trump’s vice president if asked, making his appearance on the ex-president’s shortlist one that would present an awkward about-face for him.

Rubio, who has become a vocal supporter of Trump since his 2016 defeat, has taken the opposite position as Burgum. He has said that he would be honored to accept an offer to be Trump’s vice president in a second term.

“Anybody who would be offered the chance to serve their country as vice president should consider that an honor,” the senator told NBC News in March, while stressing that he had not been lobbying for himself within Trumpworld.

Donald Trump speaks at a Turning Point USA conference on June 15, 2024
Donald Trump speaks at a Turning Point USA conference on June 15, 2024 (Getty Images)

The Biden campaign has indicated that they view the state of Florida, where Democrats have suffered resounding defeats in recent election cycles, as winnable or at the very least worth contesting in 2024. The president and his team have made abortion rights a central issue of Biden’s re-election bid as they seek to press Trump on his home turf.

But the addition of Rubio to Trump’s ticket could be a backstop against those efforts.

“I happen to think that he’s the candidate the Biden campaign probably fears the most,” Florida-based Republican strategist Justin Sayfie told The Hill of Rubio’s potential inclusion on the Trump 2024 ticket. “Of all the people that President Trump can pick to be his running mate, I think that the Biden campaign probably would not like to see Marco Rubio on the ticket.”

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