Donald Trump plans to announce his running mate before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this month, and has started an “Apprentice”-style search – meeting with possible candidates one by one and then posting on Twitter about it. (On Monday, he even praised on Twitter Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a long-shot running mate whom some Republicans nonetheless like because of his military service.)
Below is a look at the four potential candidates for vice president whom the Trump campaign has begun vetting.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey: Why Trump would choose him: After dropping out of the Republican primary contest, Christie was one of Trump’s earliest endorsers – the sort of loyalty that goes far in his world. Christie has since emerged as a key figure behind the scenes, including running Trump’s transition team.
Trump has said he would like to choose someone with government experience, and Christie’s leadership of a traditionally Democratic state, where he has pushed legislation through the New Jersey House, could help in working with a deeply divided Congress. Christie himself is also brash enough to handle the outsize personality at the top of the ticket. Possible downside: Christie is still dealing with fallout from the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. Trump has also seemed dismissive of Christie at times on the campaign trail, once ordering him back to the plane after the governor had finished introducing the Manhattan businessman.
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Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa: Why Trump would choose her: A Harley-riding mom from a socially conservative state, Ernst electrified the Republican establishment with her election to the Senate in 2014, and quickly emerged as one of the party’s rising stars and fresh faces. During her Senate bid, she garnered attention with an ad about pig castration and her promise to make the politicians in Washington “squeal” – an outsider ethos that matches that of Trump.
She is an Iraq War veteran and retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, which could bring military and foreign policy experience – two areas in which Trump is lacking. And as a woman, she could help him shore up his standing with female voters among whom Trump trails far behind Hillary Clinton in polls. Possible downside: Elected to the Senate just two years ago, Ernst lacks a deep breadth of national governing experience. She was a disciplined if carefully managed candidate during her Senate bid, and it is unclear if she can withstand not just the media scrutiny of being the vice presidential pick, but also the general chaos of the Trump operation.
Newt Gingrich, former House speaker: Why Trump would choose him: A former speaker of the House and Republican congressman from Georgia for two decades, Gingrich brings the governing experience and Washington know-how that Trump says he wants in a running mate. Gingrich also seems eager for the job, and has the intellectual bona fides and dynamic personality to handle someone like Trump as his running mate.
Possible downside: Gingrich was perhaps the most public face of partisan warfare with the Clintons during the 1990s, and was ultimately forced to resign his speakership after an ethics violation and poor showing from Republicans in the 1998 midterm elections. He is also a thrice-married convert to Catholicism.
Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana: Why Trump would choose him: Pence, the popular governor of a Rust Belt swing state – President Barack Obama narrowly won Indiana in 2008; Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, won it 2012 – is a favorite among social conservatives, and could help reassure a Republican base still skeptical about Trump’s credentials. Pence has twice toyed with a presidential run, and is locked in a close re-election fight with John Gregg, a Democrat and former speaker of Indiana’s House of Representatives, making a place on Trump’s ticket potentially more appealing.
Possible downside: Trump talks of expanding the electoral map and attracting a broad coalition to beat Clinton, including some disaffected Democrats, like those who originally supported Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But Pence’s socially conservative stances, especially on gay rights, could turn off some of those voters.