Democrats view Marco Rubio as Donald Trump’s strongest possible running mate.
Donald Trump has one month to pick a running mate, and Republican swing-state insiders are deeply divided over who he should choose.
GOP members of The POLITICO Caucus – a panel of activists, strategists and operatives in 10 key battleground states – splintered this week when asked to suggest who Trump should select to share the ticket with him this fall.
Gaining the most support were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (13 percent), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (9 percent), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (8 percent), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (8 percent), Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst (7 percent) and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (7 percent).
A plurality of Democratic and nonpartisan members see Rubio, who is reconsidering whether to retire from the Senate before next week’s filing deadline to run for reelection, as Trump’s strongest running mate. Given a list of seven possible choices, just over a third said Rubio would be Trump’s best possible pick — far more than any other individual potential candidate.
For Republicans, though, the responses were a mix of serious suggestions and despair over Trump’s decision-making process and his odds in the November election.
Gingrich, who left the House after the 1998 midterm elections and unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination four years ago, emerged as the narrow favorite.
“He’s intimately knowledgeable how Congress works and has a keen understanding of how to push the Executive Branch,” said a Florida Republican, who, like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously. “Speaker Gingrich also brings the conservative credibility that should assuage some of the establishment class which is licking their wounds after being squeezed and beaten for the past year.”
“He is excellent on his feet,” added a Virginia Republican.
Rubio, who has said he isn’t interested in being Trump’s running mate, was the second choice.
“Rubio understands public policy, he’s smart, has great legislative experience, he’s young, good looking and Hispanic – and women like him,” said a Colorado Republican.
“Trump also needs Rubio’s expertise with regard to the politics,” a Wisconsin Republican added.
Rubio would be the strongest choice for Trump, Democratic insiders said, though they are confident the youthful Floridian won’t join the ticket.
“It is not going to happen,” said a Nevada Democrat, “but Rubio would have best opportunity to help Trump broaden his base.”
Added a North Carolina Democrat: “The question is if Rubio is willing to destroy his political future for the sake of saving his party.”
Unlike Rubio, Kasich hasn’t even endorsed the presumptive GOP nominee – but a number of GOP insiders said they wanted him on the ticket
“[Trump] needs stability and Ohio,” said one Virginia Republican.
And Rice, the former secretary of state, was praised for her foreign policy chops – and her ability to negate a likely Trump weakness.
“She has everything that Trump does not, everything,” said a Florida Republican.
The other two potential candidates to earn significant support were Ernst, the first-term Iowa senator, and Sessions, the immigration hawk from Alabama.
“Ernst with her military background, genuine likeability and personality, work ethic and a quick grasp of issues would complement a Trump ticket and help in swing, purple states around the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest,” said an Iowa Republican.
“[Ernst] has legislative experience, but she has not been in Washington long enough to be tainted,” added a New Hampshire Republican.
For many GOP insiders long resistant to Trump, the vice-presidential question was an opportunity to tee off on the real-estate mogul. One Iowa Republican said being Trump’s running mate was “like being first mate on the Titanic.”
“No one should have to endure that,” added an Ohio Republican.
“No one remembers who Goldwater’s running mate was, but at least that person had some honor,” a New Hampshire Republican said. “The one who says yes to Trump will not.”
“It won’t matter, except for the poor unfortunate soul who will gain the world’s worst resume line,” said a Virginia Republican.
“I don’t see any rational political figure accepting this suicide mission except those with an exaggerated ego and self-inflated thoughts of political superego,” a Florida Republican said.
“Anyone willing to share the ticket with Donald Trump is unfit for the office of the vice president,” insisted an Iowa Republican.
“There is no one Trump can pick that would make him palatable,” said a Pennsylvania Republican.
One area where Trump did earn some plaudits from GOP insiders: the idea of announcing his running-mate pick during next month’s national party convention in Cleveland. Fifty-nine percent of Republican insiders said that was a good idea, while 41 percent said it wasn’t, and that Trump should roll out his pick before the convention.
“Picking a running mate during the convention might be a PR stunt, but it could reinforce Trump’s brand as going against the grain,” said a Florida Republican. “And only Trump has the showmanship to pull it off.”
“Surprises are rare in politics,” an Ohio Republican added. “It would be beneficial.”
But some Republicans said Trump needs to announce his pick before Cleveland, especially with some discussing a revolt to deny him the nomination.
“People are talking about changing the rules to introduce another nominee. Dissatisfaction with Trump is growing among Republicans, not waning,” said a New Hampshire Republican. “His VP choice is all he has left if he wants any chance at all of uniting the party behind him.”
“We’ve seen this approach twice in the last three decades,” added an Iowa Republican. “Odd 11th-hour, manufactured drama produced Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.”
One Ohio Republican suggested that approach could harm Trump’s credibility.
“This is not a reality show,” the Republican said. “I can only imagine the cut shots to the horrified faces of delegates when Sarah Palin walks out.”
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