Who will be Trump’s VP? A shortlist

<span>Illustration: Guardian Design</span>
Illustration: Guardian Design
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Donald Trump has secured the necessary delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination for a third consecutive election. That result was never in much doubt, but the contest to be Trump’s running mate is harder to predict. Once again, the Republican primaries demonstrated his strength among white men in rural areas, leading to speculation that he will choose a woman or person of colour to broaden his appeal in November.

Here are some factors to consider and a look at the likely contenders.

Related: Who is running for president in 2024? Biden, Trump and the full list of candidates

Why does Trump need a new running mate?

Former vice-president Mike Pence was a useful ally during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, a Christian conservative who shored up support among Republicans suspicious of the thrice-married reality TV star. But Pence’s refusal to comply with his boss’s demand to overturn the 2020 election led to a falling out and made Pence a perceived traitor and target of the January 6 insurrectionists. After a failed bid for president in 2024, Pence recently said in an interview that he will not be endorsing Trump.

What is Trump looking for in a 2024 VP?

He may decide he needs a female running mate to make himself less toxic to suburban women, especially with abortion rights looming large as an election issue. But history suggests that he will have three priorities: a person who displays loyalty; a person who looks like they are from “central casting”; a person who knows their place and will not outshine him on the campaign trail.

Will Trump’s VP pick matter in the 2024 election?

Probably not a lot. There is little evidence that a woman on the ticket draws more female voters or that a running mate’s home state will necessarily back them. Dan Pfeiffer, a White House communications director under President Barack Obama, told the New York Times: “The vice-presidential pick is something that generates a massive amount of press coverage but has the most minimal of impacts on the election.”

But perhaps a bad pick can do damage: Republican nominee John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin in 2008 probably didn’t help. This year, however, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are, again, the two oldest candidates in history, giving new meaning to their VP picks being only “a heartbeat away from the presidency”.

How many VPs have gone on to become president?

Fifteen. Eight of these succeeded to the office on the death of a president, including Lyndon Johnson, who was sworn in onboard Air Force One after the assassination of John F Kennedy. Gerald Ford was the only unelected vice-president and president following the resignations of Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon. Biden served as vice-president under Barack Obama, who was succeeded by Trump, who was then defeated by Biden for the presidency.

What to know about the Republicans on Trump’s vice-president shortlist

Greg Abbott

Age: 66

Occupation: Governor of Texas

The Texas politician is a Trump loyalist and hardliner on border security who has fought a series of legal battles with the Biden White House. Trump said he “would very much consider Abbott” for vice-president during a joint Fox News interview in February. Abbott, who uses a wheelchair, said he was “committed to governing Texas” and to his own re-election campaign.

Tucker Carlson

Age: 54

Occupation: Conservative political commentator and writer

The former Fox News host is a strong ideological match. Like Trump, he relishes offending liberals, praising autocrats such as Vladimir Putin of Russia and Viktor Orbán of Hungary (he conducted fawning interviews with both) and pushing the far-right “great replacement” theory that western elites are importing immigrant voters to supplant white people. Although Carlson once wrote of Trump in a text message, “I hate him passionately”, more recently he has praised him as “sensible and wise”.

Ben Carson

Age: 72

Occupation: Retired neurosurgeon

Born in Detroit to a single mother with a third- grade education who worked multiple jobs to support her family, Carson rose to become a leading neurosurgeon – a life story that the Trump campaign could promote as it seeks to win over aspirational Black votes. As housing secretary, Carson was among Trump’s longest-serving cabinet members. He remained loyal to the outgoing president after the 6 January 2021 riot at the US Capitol and campaigned with him in Iowa before the caucuses.

Ron DeSantis

Age: 45

Occupation: Governor of Florida

DeSantis tried and failed to dethrone Trump as king of the Republican party, flaming out during the primary season. He once made a campaign ad in which he read Trump’s book about getting rich, The Art of the Deal, to one of his children and encouraged them to “build the wall” along the US-Mexico border by stacking toy bricks. But when he ran for president, Trump branded him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and seems unlikely to forgive the perceived disloyalty.

Byron Donalds

Age: 45

Occupation: Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district

The Freedom Caucus Republican is one of Trump’s most prominent African American supporters and backed him against state governor Ron DeSantis in the primary election. He is short on experience, having only started in Congress in 2021. At an event hosted by Axios, Donalds suggested that he would be willing to decline to certify the 2028 election results if he were vice-president.

Tulsi Gabbard

Age: 42

Occupation: Rightwing media personality

The former Democratic congresswoman and presidential candidate has rebranded herself as a rightwing media personality. She campaigned for election-denier Kari Lake and other Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections. Her provocative critiques of the western foreign policy establishment, and her overtures to dictators such as Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, are likely to resonate with Trump. Asked in March by Fox News if she would consider a vice-presidential slot, Gabbard replied: “I would be open to that.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Age: 49

Occupation: Representative for Georgia’s 14th congressional district

The far-right flamethrower from Georgia personifies the age of Trumpism with her pugnacious style, bizarre conspiracy theories, indications of support for political violence, and racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic statements. She once suggested that, if she had led the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, the mob would have been armed and victorious in its efforts to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory (she later claimed this was “sarcasm”).

Nikki Haley

Age: 52

Occupation: Politician

The former South Carolina governor was Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations and, as the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, could help neutralise charges of sexism and racism against him. But her persistence as his most durable opponent during the Republican primary, in which she questioned his age and mental acuity, would be hard for Trump – who called her “Birdbrain” – and the Maga base to forgive. They are also at odds on aid to Ukraine.

Kari Lake

Age: 54

Occupation: Candidate for Senate in Arizona

The firebrand former TV anchor was the breakout Republican star of the midterm elections but lost the race for governor of Arizona, a result she has never accepted. She was endorsed by Trump and continued to repeat his election lies while campaigning as a surrogate for him during the Republican primary. But she may be seen as more valuable running for Senate because she could help Republicans take control of that chamber if she wins.

Kristi Noem

Age: 52

Occupation: Governor of South Dakota

The former pageant queen and congresswoman, serving her second term as South Dakota’s governor, gained national attention after refusing to impose a statewide mask mandate during the coronavirus pandemic. But she scored a spectacular own goal by admitting in a new memoir that she shot dead her dog, a 14-month-old wirehaired pointer named Cricket, after it killed her neighbour’s chickens. The book also included a false claim that she once met the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which Noem has promised to correct in later editions. Her conservative stance on abortion – and media reports of an affair with the former Trump aide Corey Lewandowski – could be a further electoral liability.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Age: 38

Occupation: Business executive

The former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is a political neophyte who shook up the Republican primary debates, acting as unofficial Trump surrogate and earning the scorn of Haley. Trump condemned Ramaswamy as “not Maga” when he gained traction in the opinion polls but has since praised the biotech entrepreneur, who dropped out and threw his weight behind the former president. Ramaswamy is a young person of colour, although his views on the climate crisis are out of step with young voters.

Marco Rubio

Age: 52

Occupation: Senator for Florida

The former Florida state house speaker was first elected to the Senate in 2010 after stressing his working-class background and “American dream” story as the son of Cuban immigrants who worked as a bartender and hotel maid. Rubio ran for president in 2016, winning the Minnesota primary before dropping out of the race eventually won by Trump, who branded him “Little Marco”. But in the years since then he has become a case study in the Republican party’s capitulation to Trump, endorsing him for president in January 2024.

Sarah Sanders

Age: 41

Occupation: Governor of Arkansas

She was a devoted White House press secretary, tirelessly promoting Trump’s agenda and insisting that he was neither racist nor sexist. Last year she was inaugurated as the first woman to serve as governor of Arkansas and she is currently the youngest governor in the country. Her father, former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, is the creator of The Kids Guide to President Trump and an ex-pastor who might help shore up the Christian evangelical vote.

Tim Scott

Age: 58

Occupation: Senator for South Carolina

The Black evangelical Christian made his own bid for the presidency but dropped out two months before the Iowa caucuses, endorsing Trump and telling him: “I just love you.” The senator might be seen as a way to build on Trump’s recent progress among male African American voters. Asked about potential running mates during a Fox News town hall in February, Trump pointed to Scott and said: “A lot of people are talking about that gentleman right over there.” Scott is single but, with impeccable timing, recently presented his girlfriend with an engagement ring.

Elise Stefanik

Age: 39

Occupation: Representative for New York’s 21st congressional district

The New York politician is the highest-ranking woman in the Republican conference in the House of Representatives and one of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump. Once a moderate, she gained national prominence last year after embarrassing the heads of three top universities about antisemitism on their campuses during a congressional hearing, which prompted two of them to later resign. She has also parroted Trump’s use of the term “hostages” to describe those convicted of crimes on January 6.

JD Vance

Age: 39

Occupation: Senator for Ohio

The venture capitalist rose to prominence with his 2016 memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. A one-time Trump critic, he is now an ardent supporter and claims to be fighting for the working class by taking on liberals who “populate the upper echelons of American government, business, media, entertainment and academia”. He echoes the former president’s populist views on immigration and an “America First” foreign policy on Ukraine. Donald Trump Jr told Newsmax in January: “I’d love to see a JD Vance. People who are principally in alignment as well as aggressive.”