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Forget The Media Spin — Here's Who GOP Voters Really Favor As Trump's V.P.: I&I/TIPP Poll

GOP grassroots favorites

Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for his campaign rally in Wildwood Beach on May 11, 2024, in Wildwood, New Jersey. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Who should be Donald Trump's vice presidential running mate? Though no one yet knows who it will be, many people seem to have an opinion about whom it should be. It's a long list of possible names for the increasingly important vice presidential job, as the latest I&I/TIPP Poll indicates.

As part of our monthly national online poll, taken from May 1-3, we asked 538 Republicans, and those who lean that way, two questions about who they preferred as Trump's vice president. The poll has a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points.

First we asked a straightforward question: "Who is your top choice for Trump's vice president?" To be thorough, 21 different names were included in the list, along with "not sure."

The big winner is no surprise: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who collected 15% of the support. No one else received double-digit backing as top choice.

Trailing DeSantis were former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley (8%), author-entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (7%), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (7%), surgeon and former Health Secretary Ben Carson (5%), former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (5%), South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (4%), former Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (3%), and TV commentator Tucker Carlson (3%).

A long list of others garnered 2% or less in the favorite veep sweepstakes (see chart above).

But the real big winner in the first round is "not sure." That received a big 27% chunk of the votes, so maybe average voters haven't been thinking about it too much, at least not yet.

After that first pass, we asked voters to have another go: "Who is your second choice as Trump's vice president?"

There, things shifted a bit. Yes, DeSantis holds the top spot again, at 14%. But he's followed by Scott, Carson, Haley and Abbott, all at 5%. The next tier begins with Gabbard at 4%, and Rubio, Ramaswamy, Noem and Carlson pulling in 3% backing. The remainder of the list, as enumerated above, all got 2% or less support.

But this time, the "not sures" fell to 7%.

Why do this exercise? By adding the two totals, we get a more-focused reading on whom Republican voters like best and want most as their next vice president. It's a hidden preference.

And it isn't really close, given the number of contestants. DeSantis, the energetic and successful Florida governor, takes in 29% of all the votes. Only Haley (12%), Abbott (12%), Ramaswamy (11%), Carson and Scott (both at 10%) reach double digits, though, at 9% Gabbard gets close.

This year, with Trump in legal trouble and perhaps not fully engaged on the campaign trail until summer, picking a running mate might be the last thing on his mind. But in fact, it may be the most important thing he does, apart from dodging his legal issues.

In 2016, Trump selected the little-known-but-respected conservative Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to join the ticket. It wasn't a match made in Heaven, given the gulf between the two in their personal styles and behavior.

Pence, religious, a careful speaker and a by-the-book conservative, couldn't have been more different than Trump, the garrulous, and at times brash and opinionated, entrepreneur. It didn't work, and the relationship completely unraveled after Pence refused to go along with Trump challenging the results of the 2020 election.

The two who got the most votes — DeSantis and Haley — have both had well-publicized public rows with Trump, in particular during last year's pre-primary jousting. But will that disqualify them?

As the I&I/TIPP Poll noted in February, Trump told Fox's Bret Baier, “People won’t be that surprised” at whom he picks for veep.

That's a good thing, since as we also wrote earlier in the year, "If, for one reason or another, Trump is unable to finish his campaign for president, it’s very likely that whomever he selects as his running mate will turn into the GOP’s candidate."

Since 15 vice presidents have gone on to become president, and given Trump's many legal difficulties, it's a weighty decision.

In the past, Trump has talked up such possible vice presidential picks as Noem, Scott, and, possibly Ramaswamy, while his own advisers have talked up Vance, Huckabee-Sanders, and Stefanik.

With the campaign about to enter its all-crucial summer stretch, outsiders are looking to have a say in who Trump picks, among them "corporate leaders, wealthy donors," according to CNBC.

One name likely scratched from consideration: Noem. After admitting to killing a hunting dog that disappointed her and had been untrainable, a bad look for any politician, she dropped out of serious discussion as a vice presidential candidate.

Another likely dropout from consideration could be North Dakota's Burgum, whose chumminess with billionaire Bill Gates and extreme "net zero" beliefs are starkly at odds with Trump's own very different energy ideas.

And recent rumors in the media that Trump would bury the hatchet with Haley and select her as his running mate appeared to be definitively scotched on May 11, when Trump tweeted out: "Nikki Haley is not under consideration for the V.P. slot, but I wish her well!"

That still leaves a lot of potential candidates. Who can win?

Overseas betting sites have their own lists of likely favorites, based solely on wagers both from the U.S. and elsewhere. Newsweek, citing the British BetFair site, gives Scott a 16.7% chance, followed by Burgum at 11.1%, Gabbard at 10%, Rubio 7.7%, and Stefanik 7.1%, with Carson, Haley and Vance trailing just behind.

But are the bettors right? As May's I&I/TIPP Poll shows, that's not what voters want. They plainly seek a vice president who is steady, experienced, popular and accomplished, a known quantity and not a pick out of left field. If elected, Trump will have just four years to enact his agenda.

That's why voters seem to favor DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy, Carson, Scott and Gabbard, all with the exception of Ramaswamy having Washington experience. And that's also something that Trump, who had never been elected to public office in 2016, now has.

I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique, and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.

Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

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