Donald Trump VP possibilities: Ben Carson, Nicolas Cage, etc.

A Thorough and Only Slightly Satirical Guide to Trump’s Potential Vice Presidential Choices

A Thorough and Only Slightly Satirical Guide to Trump’s Potential Vice Presidential Choices

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May 10 2016 10:26 AM

A Thorough and Only Slightly Satirical Guide to Trump’s Potential Vice Presidential Choices

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Real Housewife Lisa Rinna and actor Gary Busey with Donald Trump on Oct. 12, 2012, in New York.*

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president, and that means he's going to need a running mate, a companion, someone to stand beside him and smile while he encourages his fans to punch protesters. Below is a subjective guide to the individuals whose names (with two exceptions, which are jokes that you will realize are obviously jokes) have come up elsewhere in the press as possible Trump running mates.

People Who Would Be Useful to Trump and Would Probably Say Yes

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Scott Brown. In theory, the former Massachusetts senator is the nice version of Trump: a moderate Republican man's man who appeals to regular Joes (assuming that these Joes are white) but doesn't get as nasty about all the Muslim and Mexican stuff. In practice, Scott Brown has had a hard time actually winning elections lately. Still, Brown doesn't have a lot going on right now, would project a usefully non-thuggish vibe, and, unlike Trump, has actual military experience.

Chris Christie. Unpopular in New Jersey and prevented by term limits from running again anyway, the Bridgegate governor had little to lose by tying himself to Trump with an endorsement. He's also clearly willing to let the real estate heir put him in demeaning situations, which you have to imagine Trump considers a positive trait in a potential colleague. Putting Christie on the ticket probably wouldn't be that helpful given Christie's unpopularity, but he's likely the most credibly “serious” person willing to run with Trump; say what you will about Christie, but he's been a U.S. attorney and governor of a populous state, and if you like some things about Trump but are worried about his lack of official experience or loose-cannon tendencies, maybe you'll see Christie as a credentialed, stabilizing figure.

Bob Corker. The Tennessee senator got a plug from an anonymous source in Mike Allen's inside-baseball Playbook column Tuesday morning; said source argued that Corker's background in business—he started his own construction company—and maverick personality would make him a good fit. (“He’s an independent guy—kind of a tough guy—who’s not afraid to swim upstream,” said this very generous anonymous individual who definitely doesn't have any sort of personal stake in Corker's success.) As a relatively noncontroversial but solidly conservative Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it's true that Corker could be a good choice for Trump; he's also fairly old (63) and popular in his home state and therefore might not be averse to taking the risk of running.

Joni Ernst. The freshman Tea Party senator from Iowa would appeal to partisans concerned that Trump isn't a “real” Republican. She's also a veteran. Ultimately, some of her right-wing shock-jock positions might turn off too many general-election voters to actually help Trump win, but she probably wouldn't hurt. Ernst also sells herself as a maverick and might be interested in the profile-raising effect of a national campaign, even a losing one. At the very least, she's not rejecting the idea of joining the ticket.

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Rudy Giuliani. According to the polls I could find, the former New York City mayor has not entirely lost his sterling post-9/11 reputation, despite years of questionable decisionshigh-profile electoral failure, and cranky grandpa complaints that Obama doesn't love America. He also matches up well with Trump on policy, projecting a belligerence that belies moderacy on issues like abortion and gay rights.

Rick Perry. The former Texas governor was a flop as a presidential candidate but has the kind of résumé—governing experience, military service—that Trump might be looking for. He also says he's interested in the job.

Rick Scott. We're really stretching the definition of useful here, but the Florida governor, like Trump, is a flip-flopping sometimes-moderate with no scruples and a shady background in business. So he's on-brand. And he has experience in government, or, given that we're talking about Florida, “government.” Thus, Rick Scott!

Jeff Sessions. The Alabama senator has already allied himself with the campaign as a foreign-policy adviser and wouldn't rule out the idea of accepting a VP nomination. He's a relatively low-key figure but one who has support in the conservative media, and he was the first sitting senator to endorse Trump.

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People Who Would Be Useful to Trump and Would Probably Say No

Nicolas Cage. Widely regarded as the most admired man in America, Cage would bring an air of gravitas and good judgment to the Trump ticket that is sorely needed. Unfortunately for Trump, and for the United States, Cage is likely currently occupied by the task of finding a replacement for the dinosaur skull that he recently agreed to return to the government of Mongolia and will be not be able to campaign.

Ben Carson. The good doctor is still well-liked among Republican voters and could help bring #NeverTrump dead-enders into the fold. Carson and Trump would match up well as ostensibly successful professionals reluctantly entering politics in order to save the country from inept leadership and political correctness. The downside is that, like Trump, Carson is an serial exaggerator prone to taking extreme, moderate voter–alienating positions on culture war issues. A Trump-Carson ticket would be, like, the most Trumpian thing possible. Either way, though, Carson—who's helping run the VP search process—says he would not accept a VP offer, citing the potential “distraction” that would be created by critical coverage of him in the “left-wing media.” (For Carson, that's a reasonable consideration, selfishly speaking—he does a lot of things that are don't look great when scrutinized.)

Ted Cruz. He's a pure right-winger whose positions are mostly radical by general-election standards; still, like Ernst, he could give the ticket enough conservative bona fides to avoid a historic landslide and/or hang around in striking range in case something crazy (i.e., an indictment) happens to Hillary Clinton. Cruz seems to genuinely and truly dislike Trump, though, and is probably more interested in setting himself up for 2020 than in running for the assistant job this fall.

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Nikki Haley. Haley is what exactly what Trump ’16 needs: a nonwhite woman who has a solid conservative C.V. but knows that the Republican Party can't keep tying itself to the reactionary causes of a fading demographic. Which is why Haley has already publicly denounced Trump—and would be crazy to undercut her burgeoning Reasonable Republican national brand by running with him.

John Kasich. Some people seem to think this is a good/plausible idea, but aside from Kasich being old enough (63) that he might not care about how a VP run affects his next career move, I don't see it. His whole thing is putting a friendly, empathetic spin on Reaganomics; Trump's whole thing is putting a dickish spin on faux-populism. These pieces just don't go together.

Susana Martinez. The New Mexico governor is brash and not super-well-informed, or in other words, stylistically Trumpish. She's also pretty well-liked in her home state—and is a woman of Mexican ancestry, which would be a good look for a candidate whose approval ratings among women and nonwhites are in the toilet. One big downside? She's reportedly being investigated by the FBI for campaign finance shenanigans, which would undermine any Trump attacks on Hillary Clinton's own ongoing federal investigation. More importantly, she supported Marco Rubio during the primary and says she doesn't want the job. Like Haley, Martinez probably sees a brighter future selling herself as a next-generation Republican than she does being associated with the candidate of angry white people. Thanks, but she'll pass.

Rob Portman. Portman, an Ohio senator, is a guy who always gets brought up in articles like the one you're reading as a vaguely nice-seeming, somewhat moderate figure who is respected by colleagues and could be considered as a candidate for something or other. He also never seems to actually end up doing anything and says he doesn't want the VP job.

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Condoleezza Rice. Condoleezza Rice is a highbrow figure who, for whatever reason, has not been stained, in the public's estimation, by the disaster of the Iraq War. She also has a pretty sweet corporate-academic thing going on, and I can't imagine why she'd want to ruin it by joining the Trump circus. 

Marco Rubio. The primary process established Rubes as an effective public speaker who appeals strongly to the Republican donor class and intellectual-conservative punditocracy but doesn't get much traction with actual voters, possibly because of his history as an immigration moderate and possibly because he's really lazy. Being lazy is fine, though, if you're the vice president, and as a member of a Trump ticket, Rubio's appeal to establishment types would be a big asset. Still, the amount of bad blood between Rubio and Trump seems like it'd be impossible to overcome, even for two flexible politicians, and Rubio is probably better off career-wise laying low and doing TV for a few years. He also says he isn't interested in being VP.

Brian Sandoval. The Nevada governor is popular and has Mexican ancestry, which automatically makes him the kind of Republican whose name comes up in VP discussions. He's also considered enough of a centrist that Barack Obama reportedly considered nominating him to the Supreme Court. Put him in the category of rising stars who probably believe their own reputations are better off without Trump ties.

People Who Would Be Kinda Disastrous and Would Probably Say Yes

Jan Brewer. The former Arizona governor made her name by backing a draconian immigration law and is openly interested in being the VP nominee. In general, though, it's not clear what Trump would gain from picking someone who's solely known for being racially and ethnically provocative. He's already got that covered!

Mary Fallin. The Oklahoma governor makes headlines nationally for hating abortion and loving the death penalty. Trump himself has said she could be considered for a spot on his ticket. To me, though, Fallin has Joni Ernst or Ted Cruz's radical right-winger downside without the upside of being a veteran who's won an election in a swing state (Ernst) or having a large national fan base (Cruz).

Newt Gingrich. Newt would say and do almost anything to keep himself on cable TV, and he got aboard the Trump bandwagon early. He knows enough big words and proper nouns that he could probably play the role of “designated foreign-policy talker” for the campaign. But he also hasn't been anything but a D.C. hustler and talking head for two decades. I'm not sure what he has to offer Trump in the way of campaign identity or appeal to actual voters, but, yeah, he'd do it.

Paul LePage. The white, resentful Maine governor is openly racist and delusional in a way that makes Trump look like a master of subtlety and empirical reasoning. Running with an extremist like LePage would make sense if Trump's goal is to start building a permanent white-nationalist party, but not if he's trying to win the general election.

Sarah Palin. See the entries for Jan Brewer and Paul LePage and multiply by 1,000.

Mike Pence. The Indiana governor endorsed Cruz but has been friendly to Trump and also got a Playbook mention Tuesday in a way that suggested he might be open to running. Pence just signed a restrictive abortion law and was heavily involved in the state's “religious freedom” LGBT rights debacle; based on his erratic performance during the latter controversy, I'm not so sure he would be an asset to a national campaign.

People Who Would Be Kinda Disastrous and Would Probably Say No

Scott Walker. Walker might seem good idea from the conservative-ideology and governing-experience angles, but I can't get past the fact that he looks like a total drip and never got above like 0.5 percent in national polls when he actually ran for president. Who looks at Scott Walker's blank, derp-y visage and thinks, “OK, maybe I'll give this Trump guy another shot?”

Vigo the Carpathian. Born Vigo Von Homburg Deutschendorf, Vigo the Carpathian was a 16th-century tyrant and sorcerer whose undead sprit is the villain of the film Ghostbusters II. Vigo projects an air of masculine strength and ruthlessness that Trump would likely admire; on the other hand, he is not real.

People Who Are John Thune

John Thune. Another guy mentioned in Playbook on Tuesday morning was Thune, the South Dakota senator. I'm going to be honest: I don't know much about John Thune except that he is popular in South Dakota and very handsome. Suffice it to say that John Thune would be a very John Thune–like choice for the VP slot. (For what it's worth, he was critical of Trump's comments on closing the border to Muslims.)

Person Who I Currently Think Trump Is Actually Going to Pick

Having no inside insight into the Trump search process, but having read about Donald [expletive] Trump pretty much every day for the last nine months, my best current guess is that Trump will choose Chris Christie. Trump and his advisers have said they are looking for a VP with practical Washington experience who can help with foreign policy and security issues; Christie hasn't worked in Washington per se, but his whole thing is constantly claiming to be a Tough Guy Who Gets ’Er Done, Hoss. It's a self-aggrandizing schtick that matches perfectly with the kind of self-biography that one hears from Trump, an heir to a real estate fortune who likes to act like he became a billionaire by building the entire state of New York with his bare hands. And we know already that Christie will let Trump boss him around—one imagines (hopes?) that he's secured a promise of at least some sort of prominent position in the Trump administration in exchange for his humiliation. If Nicolas Cage can't do it, Chris Christie just makes the most sense.

*Correction, May 19, 2016: Due to a photo provider error, the photo caption on this post originally misspelled Lisa Rinna’s last name.