South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s recent endorsement of former President Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign has ignited a buzz about her as a possible vice presidential candidate if Trump secures the Republican nomination. However, the landscape of Trump’s potential running mates extends far beyond South Dakota, with a significant presence in Iowa and New Hampshire.
While Trump has publicly mentioned that some of his former presidential rivals could be strong running mates, selecting a former opponent as a vice presidential candidate is a complex decision for any presidential nominee. Trump, in particular, values loyalty and has a history of scrutinizing it closely. In recent decades, major-party nominees have steered away from this traditional practice to avoid potential political complications that have plagued past joint tickets.
Despite some positive remarks from a few of Trump’s former rivals, most of the primary contenders, including some frequently discussed potential running mates, have expressed criticism to varying degrees. This criticism raises questions about their loyalty and suggests that many of them may prioritize defeating Trump rather than joining forces with him.
Shifting Trends in Presidential Running Mates
Historically, vice presidential picks often involved selecting a political rival from the same party to create a balanced ticket. However, in recent decades, presidential nominees have embraced a different approach, commonly referred to as the “partnership model” by experts like Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kamarck humorously dubs this approach a “love match.” A significant turning point in this shift was the 1992 election, where future President Bill Clinton opted for then-Senator Al Gore, a fellow Southern Democrat in his mid-40s, over then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a liberal figure from the Northeast.
Among the 19 unique Democratic and Republican presidential nominees since 1972, only four have chosen running mates who had competed against them in the same year’s primary. Instead, a majority of nominees have looked to Congress for their vice presidential selections, with over half coming from the Senate and a few directly from the U.S. House.
When presidential nominees do consider former primary opponents as running mates, they often need to navigate past tense moments from the campaign trail. For instance, when President Biden secured the nomination in 2020, Senator Kamala Harris emerged as a natural choice for balance—a Black woman in her 50s from California alongside a white man from the East Coast approaching 80 in his first term. However, Biden first had to reconcile with moments from the primary campaign when Harris criticized him for collaborating with Senate segregationists. Even President Biden and former President Barack Obama, who later developed a strong friendship, faced their share of awkward moments. In 2008, Biden’s past criticisms of Obama’s readiness to be commander in chief resurfaced as attacks from political opponents.
In 2004, a suggestion made by Dan Rather during a Democratic primary debate created a heated moment in that year’s Democratic primary. Rather proposed the idea that then-Senator John Edwards could potentially serve as the running mate for then-Senator John Kerry. This suggestion followed Edwards falling short on Super Tuesday, leading to his withdrawal from the race and subsequent endorsement of Kerry. Several months later, Edwards became Kerry’s vice presidential nominee, but their relationship was far from smooth. Kerry, in his 2018 memoir “Every Day Is Extra,” expressed his initial hope that Edwards would be a cooperative team player. However, rumors began circulating that Edwards was rejecting input from the campaign headquarters and reverting to the primary campaign speeches he used to promote himself as a candidate.
The most recent instance of a Republican presidential nominee selecting a former primary opponent as a running mate dates back to 1980 when former President Ronald Reagan made this choice. During that primary, George H.W. Bush, who would later become Reagan’s vice president, criticized Reagan’s economic agenda, labeling it as “voodoo economic policy.” Interestingly, once Bush served as Reagan’s vice president, he vehemently denied ever using that phrase, challenging reporters to find any video evidence. Reporters indeed uncovered footage confirming the use of the term by Reagan’s opponents, making it a memorable part of the campaign narrative.
In the quest for a suitable running mate, Trump faces the challenge of his own temperament. To avoid potential complications, he might find it wise to steer clear of selecting a former primary rival as his vice president.
Trump’s distinctive penchant for vindictiveness sets him apart. While it’s common for politicians to dislike those who criticize them, Trump’s response is often more extreme. Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, notes this exceptional trait in Trump, stating, “No politicians like people who criticize them — you know, that’s obvious — but Trump is way over there on the scale.”
Considering both historical trends and Trump’s personality, it’s more likely that he would opt for a running mate based on a “partnership” model rather than seeking a “balance.” The question then becomes: who might that running mate be?
If Trump decides to align with the presidential candidate who has shown the most support during the campaign, then Vivek Ramaswamy could be a strong contender. Ramaswamy has consistently referred to Trump as a “friend,” a sentiment that hasn’t escaped Trump’s notice. Trump even acknowledged Ramaswamy as the winner of the last Republican debate, despite his own absence, and has hinted at the possibility of naming him as his vice president.
In fact, among the top GOP contenders, no one has praised Trump as often as Ramaswamy. An analysis of the tweets from the six highest-polling Republican candidates (excluding Trump) in 538’s national polling average revealed that Ramaswamy has posted 47 tweets since January 6, 2021, expressing support for Trump. Many of these tweets criticized the Department of Justice and various investigations into Trump. However, Ramaswamy has not shied away from making occasional critical remarks about Trump, particularly related to international relations and student loan forgiveness policy decisions. When asked about the possibility of serving as vice president at the Iowa State Fair in August, Ramaswamy did not exhibit excessive deference to the current front-runner. Instead, he suggested, “[Trump] and I share something in common — neither of us do pretty well in a number-two position. So I expect that he will be my adviser, and I expect that he will accept that job.”
During a late August interview with radio host Glenn Beck, Trump praised Ramaswamy for his vocal support but also cautioned him to exercise caution with his controversial statements. “Some things you have to hold in just a little bit,” Trump advised. “He’s been very nice to me,” Trump continued, adding, “Most of them have, except [former New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie.
Analyzing 2024 GOP Presidential Contenders’ Twitter Activity on Trump: Who’s In and Who’s Out?”
In the dynamic world of politics, Twitter has become a battleground for politicians to express their views, rally supporters, and make headlines. The 2024 Republican presidential race is no exception, with potential contenders vying for former President Donald Trump’s favor. This analysis delves into the Twitter activity of top-polling candidates to gauge their sentiments toward Trump, from positive endorsements to cautious neutrality.
We present a stacked bar chart showcasing the number of tweets from six leading presidential candidates mentioning former President Donald Trump. The data spans from January 6, 2021, to September 19, 2023, categorized into positive, neutral, and negative mentions.
The chart illustrates the Twitter activity of six top-polling presidential candidates concerning former President Donald Trump. The candidates include Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, and Ron DeSantis. The data reveals the number of tweets each candidate has posted, differentiating them as positive, neutral, or negative in tone regarding Trump. Chris Christie leads with 124 tweets, followed by Ramaswamy with 88 tweets, Haley with 45 tweets, Pence with 28 tweets, Scott with 16 tweets, and DeSantis with 4 tweets. Notably, former Vice President Mike Pence’s tweets specifically mentioning the “Trump-Pence administration” are excluded, as he often references his own record rather than addressing Trump directly.]
Analyzing the Candidates:
- Chris Christie: A vocal critic of Trump, Christie has posted the most tweets about the former president. His candid critiques have placed him in stark contrast to Trump’s camp.
- Vivek Ramaswamy: Ramaswamy emerges as an avid supporter of Trump, tweeting positively about him on multiple occasions. Despite his fervent endorsements, Ramaswamy’s lack of political experience may pose a challenge.
- Nikki Haley: Haley maintains a more neutral stance on Trump, with tweets that neither criticize nor excessively support him. Her approach reflects a calculated balance.
- Mike Pence: Pence, former Vice President under Trump, exhibits restraint in his tweets regarding the former president, often referring to the “Trump-Pence administration.”
- Tim Scott: Senator Scott’s Twitter activity portrays him as a quieter supporter of Trump, with no direct criticisms but a lack of personal support tweets since March 2021.
- Ron DeSantis: Florida Governor DeSantis has refrained from direct Twitter engagements with Trump, but recent tweets indicate a shift. He is increasingly addressing policy differences between himself and Trump, drawing Trump’s attention and criticism.
The Twitter activity of top GOP contenders regarding former President Donald Trump varies significantly. While Chris Christie remains a vocal critic, Vivek Ramaswamy’s fervent support is notable. Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Tim Scott adopt more measured approaches, while Ron DeSantis is navigating a changing dynamic in his relationship with Trump. As the 2024 Republican presidential race unfolds, these candidates’ online interactions offer valuable insights into their strategies and potential running mate selections.
Changing Attitudes Towards Trump?
In recent times, two presidential candidates have taken a more assertive stance in criticizing Donald Trump’s positions on X. While one of them has been considered a potential running mate, the other has previously served as Trump’s vice president and is unlikely to do so again.
Mike Pence, who had previously been cautious in his criticism of Trump, has adopted a more confrontational approach after releasing a memoir in 2022 detailing his experiences during the January 6 Capitol attack. Prior to June of this year, most of Pence’s tweets mentioning Trump either expressed support or briefly mentioned him. However, since announcing his own candidacy, Pence has made 15 tweets mentioning Trump, with 11 of them expressing negative sentiments. It’s important to note that tweets mentioning the ‘Trump-Pence administration’ were excluded, as Pence often refers to his own record using that phrase rather than focusing on Trump.
It’s highly unlikely that Trump would choose Pence as his vice president again, regardless of Pence’s efforts to moderate his criticism of the former president. Trump has been clear in his view that Pence’s certification of the 2020 election results amounted to a betrayal, and he also interpreted Pence’s decision to run for president as disloyal.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, once considered a potential Trump pick, has also shifted her stance. While Haley had previously maintained a neutral or positive tone in tweets mentioning Trump between January 2021 and August 2022, she has turned increasingly critical since June 2023. Notably, Haley’s criticism is not limited to explicit mentions of Trump; she has also made veiled critiques that are clearly aimed at the former president. Her team’s tweets, for instance, emphasize Haley as ‘the only candidate who can beat Joe Biden and expand the party.’ Additionally, she has indirectly referenced Trump’s role in the growing $33 trillion national debt.
Earlier in the election cycle, it appeared that any of the Republican presidential candidates could have been selected as vice president. Until late spring, most candidates had avoided direct criticism of Trump, both on social media and during campaign events. However, there has been a subtle shift in recent months, with fewer GOP candidates hesitating to challenge Trump’s positions. While many candidates on the debate stage have moderated their criticism of Trump, they have also made thinly veiled critiques by calling for new leadership. These evolving dynamics in how they discuss Trump on social media and on the campaign trail suggest that some candidates may be more willing to confront Trump, potentially reshaping the landscape of the Republican presidential race.
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