Mark Davis: No, Trump won’t pick Haley or RFK Jr. for VP. Here are his best options | Opinion

The selection of a running mate is a high-stakes pick for any presidential candidate, but when the selection is made by Donald Trump, his decision thickens with intrigue. Is he helped most by someone who further excites the base, or is it wiser to select someone who broadens his appeal, luring back some voters who have distanced from him?

Every list assessing Trump’s prospects is crafted with the tastes of who is compiling it. My wish is to return Trump’s policies to the White House, bolstered by a vice president who will be a strong ally who would continue those policies if necessary. While his boundless energy can make it seem Trump will outlive us all, the fact is that he will turn 80 the year after the inauguration. Even if his vitality sustains, he would be term-limited from running again, setting up his partner as a likely factor for the elections of 2028 and 2032.

Since we’re talking about someone who might occupy the White House until the early days of 2037, relative youth figures into my list of favorites. It seems wise, as the nation may have had its fill of candidates born before the Korean War.

President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, then his ambassador to the United Nations, in 2018 at the White House. (Samuel Corum/The New York Times)
President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, then his ambassador to the United Nations, in 2018 at the White House. (Samuel Corum/The New York Times)

Using logic Trump himself may apply in his own way, the path to favorable choices is carved through the list of names to be set aside. First, the people he simply will not choose.

  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, following her political suicide by book.

  • Vivek Ramaswamy, whose communication gifts are weighed down by age (38), inexperience and the occasional silly idea. Youth is a possible plus, but there are limits. As a columnist friend of mine once said, “We can’t have someone in the Oval Office who first heard Nirvana on a classic rock station.”

  • Tucker Carlson, an intriguing commentator whose occasional topical rabbit-holes make Ramaswamy look like William F. Buckley.

  • and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, whom Trump genuinely appears to dislike after their snark-filled homestretch of primary contests.

Some may ask about the not-insignificant numbers of voters Haley has drawn, perhaps as a statement of residual distaste for Trump. But rather than invite bad chemistry onto the ticket to appease that tantrum, I will calmly expect anyone with the slightest strand of Republican DNA to realize that their Trump misgivings are properly exploded by thoughts of another term of Joe Biden.

The odd notion of “expanding the base” can lead to ill wisdom, leading to two names that would be fun but deserve zero consideration:

  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attracts some ranks of the vaccine-hesitant GOP, but he has been busy lately running his own independent campaign, filled with progressive positions on abortion, climate and gun control that are a bad fit a heartbeat away from the presidency.

  • Tulsi Gabbard offers fewer obstacles, and her departure from the Democratic Party seems to paint a portrait of a liberal in recovery. Her growing list of conservative sensibilities lands her frequently on Fox News, and her military service bolsters many of her palatable views. But again, this pick is too vital to submit to a swoon over someone we admire as a work in progress.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has been floated as a top possible running mate pick for former President Donald Trump.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has been floated as a top possible running mate pick for former President Donald Trump.

Then, there are several thoroughly acceptable candidates who fall short of my highest enthusiasm; South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a wonderful man without the fighter’s instinct a Trump running mate needs; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has improved with age but still draws skepticism from some conservatives; and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who, like New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, seems free of flaws but is not the best Trump can do.

So who is better? My Fab Five:

  • Ron DeSantis, with a biography and governing track record unmatched by anyone else on the list;

  • Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, just shy of 40 but already displaying an inspiring conservative fluency on issues both domestic and international;

  • Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, whose talents lean more globally but who offers clarity needed in a dangerous world;

  • Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, bringing a strong voting record and vigorous communications gift;

  • and Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose service as Trump White House press secretary revealed a facility across a wide range of issues and a talent for defending the boss.

For those wondering, yes, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deserves consideration, but he has seemed so far to express precisely zero interest in being chosen. If that changes, so will the list.

And since the decider is Trump, there is always the possibility of an entire additional category filled with people we aren’t even thinking about.

Mark Davis hosts a morning radio show in Dallas-Fort Worth on 660-AM and at Follow him on X: @markdavis.

Mark Davis
Mark Davis

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