Trump finally reveals his shortlist for vice-president – and DeSantis has made the cut

Republican front-runner suggests Florida governor he taunted remorselessly as ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’ could yet be named as his deputy

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 22 February 2024 09:06 GMT
Donald Trump confirms some names on VP shortlist

Donald Trump has hinted at some of the names on the shortlist to be his running mate if he wins the Republican presidential nomination, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis among the more surprising inclusions.

Taking part in a Fox News town hall in South Carolina ahead of the state’s Republican primary on Saturday, Mr Trump was presented with a list of rumoured contenders by moderator Laura Ingraham that featured such popular GOP figures as former presidential candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott, Florida congressman Byron Donalds and South Dakota governor Kristi Noem as well as, much more improbably, Mr DeSantis.

The latter endured a fairly disastrous campaign for the White House, which he cut short ahead of the New Hampshire primary last month, in which he repeatedly failed to connect with voters and was bullied and taunted remorselessly by Mr Trump, who ridiculed him as “Ron DeSanctimonious”.

Having spent his final days as a candidate rebuking his fellow Republicans for being prepared to bow down to Mr Trump and “kiss the ring”, he now appears to be prepared to do the same himself, having reportedly flown out to South Carolina on Tuesday, as alluded to by Ms Ingraham during the broadcast.

Another intriguing name mentioned was that of Tulsi Gabbard, the former Hawaii representative who was a Democratic presidential candidate as recently as four years ago.

Ms Gabbard appeared on Fox earlier this week to join in Mr Trump’s attack on Nato member states for not paying their dues to the military alliance while nevertheless expecting protection from the United States.

Not mentioned, significantly, was Elise Stefanik, the New York congresswoman who has been lobbying hard for the job in recent weeks, nor was Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had served loyally as Mr Trump’s White House press secretary and has also been linked to the post.

“Honestly, all of those people are good,” Mr Trump told Ms Ingraham of the names she reeled off, declining to commit to any one.

“They’re all good, they’re all solid. And, I always say, I want people with common sense because there’s so many things happening in this country that don’t make sense.”

He went on to illustrate his point by rambling a little nonsensically about open borders, high interest rates and electric vehicles, rather than the question at hand of who might serve as his deputy.

Earlier this week, the Trump campaign issued a fundraising email to supporters asking them to contribute to a live survey about what kind of person they wanted to see as his running mate, enquiring whether a candidate’s faith or background was a concern and what policy issues they felt most strongly about.

Elsewhere during the town hall, Mr Trump doubled-down on his insensitive comparison between his ongoing legal troubles and the death of political dissident Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison.

The candidate insisted that his recent order to pay out $355m in financial penalties to the state of New York amounted to “a form of Navalny”, adding that it was “a form of communism or fascism”.

He also committed to debating Joe Biden “as many [times] as necessary” should he secure the GOP presidential nomination, despite having shirked the debate stage as a party candidate, but was unable to point to any evidence of “corruption” in President Biden’s background, despite House Republicans’ dubious impeachment investigation continuing.

Mr Trump also struggled to give specifics as to how he planned to address the problem of illegal immigration and to answer Ms Ingraham’s question about why he had not simply handed over the classified documents stored at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, as the National Archives had requested – his refusal ultimately leading to a raid on the property by FBI agents in August 2022 and a criminal indictment from Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.

He also raised eyebrows with a meandering rant about a dishwasher company in Ohio, which, he said, was suffering as a result of a lack of access to sufficient quantities of water, precisely the sort of bizarre line to which President Biden has instructed his campaign team to draw attention.

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