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GOP Voters Sound Off On Trump’s Possible VP Picks — Their Answers May Surprise You: I&I/TIPP Poll

Trump himself told Fox News’ Bret Baier that “People won’t be that surprised” by his selection. But this month, he mentioned both Noem and Scott as possibilities.

Credit: Wikimedia commons, tippinsights

A presidential candidate’s running mate is usually chosen to “balance” the ticket to shore up electoral weaknesses. But in former President Donald Trump’s case, his vice presidential pick is likely to receive added scrutiny due to his multitude of legal problems. That’s why this month I&I/TIPP asked U.S. voters: Who should Trump’s vice presidential running mate be?

To find out who’s potentially strongest as a vice presidential candidate, I&I/TIPP’s national online poll, taken by 587 registered Republican primary voters from Jan. 31-Feb. 2, asked two questions: “If Trump wins the Republican nomination, who would be your top choice for his Vice President?” and, “If Trump wins the Republican nomination, who would be your second choice for his Vice President?”

The names came from a long list of recent media and campaign mentions of potential VP candidates (for the full list, see chart with this story). It also includes those who challenged Trump in the primaries, but subsequently dropped out, and one candidate still in the race.

Out of 14 possible names for the question about the “top choice” for vice president, only three reach double-digits: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (16%), entrepreneur, author and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy (14%), and former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (11%).

All the rest get single-digit support, from South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (8%) to Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance (1%). But one remaining name still looms large: “Not sure,” which takes 20% of the vote, more than any individual candidate received. So people are still making up their minds.

The followup question, about the “second choice” for veep, shakes things up a bit, with DeSantis at 19%, Haley and Scott both at 12%, and former Housing Secretary and renowned medical doctor Ben Carson in fourth at 10%. All the rest, from Ramaswamy (7%) down to Florida Rep. Byron Daniels (2%) remain in single digits.

So which vice presidential candidate would have the most electoral clout? To determine this, I&I/TIPP then added up the individual scores for each question to see who was named by the most potential voters.

It wasn’t very close. DeSantis received 34% of the total votes cast on both questions, compared to 24% for Haley, 21% for Ramaswamy, 19% for Scott, 17% for Carson, 12% for TV personality and commentator Tucker Carlson and 10% for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

All the rest received 7% or less of the total, from Arkansas Governor and political commentator Sarah Huckabee Sanders and former National Security Adviser Gen. Mike Flynn down to Daniels at 3%.

Why focus on this so early in the game, when a vice presidential selection is usually not made until the summer before an election?

The answer, of course, it that Trump is hardly a typical candidate. To begin with, fair or not, he’s a highly divisive figure in American politics, within both parties.

But more importantly, with four major indictments against him in the last two years whose outcomes are still unclear, it’s not at all certain that even with his huge lead in the polls Trump can emerge from the process unscathed.

No former president in U.S. history has faced such a barrage of litigation, in Trump’s case suspiciously filed as he geared up to run for a second term.

As one example: The fraud trial in which Trump was hammered just this month with $355 million in penalties, which could grow to well over $400 million once interest is added, and banned from doing business in New York for three years.

“The size of the damages is grotesque and should shock the conscience of any judge on appeal,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told The Hill. “Even if the Democrat-appointed judges on the New York Court of Appeals were to ignore the obvious inequity and unfairness, the United States Supreme Court could intervene.”

“This is unprecedented. New York has never brought a case like this ever in the history of New York that anyone can find, yet they go after Donald Trump when crime in New York is at an all-time high,” according to Republican former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaking on “Kudlow.”

That’s only the latest of Trump’s legal woes.

There also was the $83 million judgment levied against him for defamation against journalist E. Jean Carroll, who claimed Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in either 1994, 1995 or 1996 (under oath, she couldn’t remember when).

In a separate case in Georgia, Trump was hit with 13 charges for allegedly trying to overturn the results of that state’s 2020 election. That case has yet to be resolved. Despite indications of prosecutorial misconduct and possible bias by lead prosecutor Fani T. Willis, Trump is still not in the clear.

Even libertarian magazine Reason, neither a friend nor supporter of Trump, was moved to call the former president a “victim of political witch hunts by Democrats suffering from Trump derangement syndrome.”

What does this have to do with who Trump selects as veep? Plenty. 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.

So who will he pick? Back in January, Trump himself told Fox News’ Bret Baier that “People won’t be that surprised” by his selection. But this month, he mentioned both Noem and Scott as possibilities.

And Fox Business, with close ties to Trump’s camp, has said that Vance, Huckabee Sanders and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik are all on Trump’s “short list” of vice presidential possibles. And Trump himself has talked of Ramaswamy as someone who play a significant, if unspecified, role in his administration.

But that raises questions, namely: Will this be an election in which the presidential candidate’s No. 2 becomes a big deal, as a potential replacement for the president? Or will it, as with most presidential elections, be a non-issue?

Meanwhile, not mentioned at all above by those close to Trump or even by Trump himself are the two vice presidential candidates who won the broadest support among rank-and-file GOP voters: DeSantis and Haley. Why not?

Of course, Trump’s supreme self-confidence and the MAGA brand may be big enough to carry him and whomever his vice presidential pick is across the finish line, especially given President Joe Biden’s troubles in recent polls. If so, Trump may see DeSantis or Haley — both strong-willed politicians with national followings of their own — as distractions from his vision for America.

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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