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Trump's Short List for Veep Is Full of People He Would Never Pick

Donald Trump loves to keep people guessing. It keeps him in the news. By not revealing his choice for running mate, he generates hundreds of news stories about something other than the civil lawsuits he has lost and his pending criminal cases. Now he is at it again. On Tuesday on Fox News, Laura Ingraham named six people and asked if all were on his short list. He said all of them were there. The six are Vivek Ramaswamy, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Tulsi Gabbard, and Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD). Maybe they really are all on his short list—if it is long enough—but only one of them strikes us as plausible.

Normally, presidential candidates pick someone who will help them win the election. The veep could be someone who could bring in a specific state (e.g., Lyndon Johnson in 1960) or some demographic (e.g., Sarah Palin in 2008 and Mike Pence in 2016). Occasionally it is someone who could help govern if the candidate wins (e.g., Dick Cheney in 2000 and Joe Biden in 2008). But Donald Trump this year is not normal. Could he go for the person who flatters him the most?

Let's go over the list. Ramaswamy is an obnoxious jerk and has proven it over and over. He would cost Trump millions of votes in the suburbs and not win any new votes. If Trump picks someone who has never been in government before and puts him or her a heartbeat away from the presidency, that would give the Democrats an excellent talking point. At least Sarah Palin was governor of the biggest state in the country (by area) and had experience dealing with a legislature. Ramaswamy makes Palin look like a stateswoman. That's quite an achievement.

Trump hates Ron "DeSanctimonious" DeSantis (R-FL), who is almost as obnoxious as Ramaswamy. DeSantis has also proven that he is a lousy campaigner and couldn't even manage his own campaign. Trump can win Florida on his own and doesn't need any help.

Scott is a friendly guy and may actually have a real fiancée. But she is white. How do white Republican men feel about mixed-race couples? Maybe not so good. South Carolina is already in the bag for Trump. The only thing Scott brings to the table is his standing with evangelicals. But now, most of them have stopped worrying about sin and have come to love Trump despite all the casinos, marriages, the grabbing of p**sy, the sexual assaults, and more. If Trump wants an evangelical, there are better ones to be had.

Donalds is also Black and nobody has ever heard of him. What's the point? What's he even doing on the list? Couldn't Ingraham think of anyone else to get to half a dozen? We can.

Gabbard has something going for her the ones above don't: She is a good-looking woman. Trump likes that. She also is not a Republican. She was elected to Congress as a Democrat and later became an independent. She acts like a Republican, though, even though she isn't one. She was born in American Samoa and if Trump were to pick her, some outside group working for the Democrats could start a campaign claiming that she is not eligible to be president. That's not true, but in politics appearances matter. Also, she is barely known. The Democrats have a nonwhite woman on the ticket, so would adding one to the Republican ticket siphon off any votes? Not among Black women and not among Latinas. We can't see her pulling away many Democrats and citizens of American Samoa can't vote in presidential elections. Seems very unlikely to us.

Finally we come to a serious contender. Noem was the South Dakota Snow Queen in high school. Trump loves beauty pageants. He used to own one. She gets points for that. She also served two terms in the South Dakota House, four terms in the U.S. House, and is in her second term as governor. She is as qualified as other veep candidates over the years. She even has a tiny bit of foreign policy experience since she served on the House Armed Services Committee. Sarah Palin she is not. She desperately wants to get out of South Dakota (see below) and will do whatever Trump wants her to do and say, another winner in his book. The one imponderable here is her alleged extracurricular affair with Trump whisperer Corey Lewandowski. If Trump picks her, every political reporter in D.C. will immediately begin scouring the boonies looking for proof of it. If someone finds it, it could blow up in Trump's face. Having not one, but two philanderers on the ticket would break a new barrier, but might not fly with social conservatives.

One obvious person Ingraham missed is Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who also desperately wants to be on the ticket and who, as a member of the congressional leadership, is reasonably plausible. But Trump loves to pull surprises and it could be someone not on many lists now, like Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC). (V)

Noem Will Use S.D. National Guard to Bolster Her Veepability

Campaigning for president is straightforward, if not always easy. You raise money, buy TV ads, and hold rallies. Campaigning for the #2 slot is different because there is only one voter, the #1. Elise Stefanik, who has a doctorate in Opportunism, tried it last November by filing an ethics complaint against Judge Arthur Engoron, and this before he hit Donald Trump with a fine of $355 million plus interest. Then, earlier this month, she stated that had she been vice president on Jan. 6, 2021, she wouldn't have certified all the electoral votes. Three days later, she filed an ethics complaint against NY AG Letitia James because James is not nice to Donald Trump. Stefanik's a regular black belt in sucking up.

Meanwhile, back in South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is nervous about Stefanik upstaging her. So, in desperation, she needed to do something. She figured that filing an ethics complaint is something weaklings do and Trump hates weaklings. Thus, she is proposing to do something tough. Trump respects tough. She is planning to send the South Dakota National Guard to the Mexican border to protect South Dakota from an invasion. After all, the nearest point in South Dakota to the Mexican border is only 900 miles, and an immigrant would merely have to get through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska before hitting her state. It is a clear and present danger, so she issued a press release noting her availability as veep... oh no, sorry, noting that she plans to deploy SD National Guard troops to the border in late spring. Observe that she is not doing anything now (because that would probably get her into trouble, as states have no authority to police the border, not even border states), but merely announcing her plans. Her goal is to get Trump's attention as a sidekick who is prepared to attack Joe Biden on the border. Take that, Elise!

Noem is very unlikely to actually send the Guard. In an address to the state legislature last month, she said that the last time she tried this stunt, she was "hampered by federal restrictions." In other words, she knows it is illegal for states to try to play border patrol cops. That is why she is merely "planning" to do it this time, not really sending them. She knows very well that when Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) actually tried to do something to stop migrants, he got sued in federal court and lost the first round in the Supreme Court. But remember, Trump doesn't care about results. He cares about people showing loyalty to him and his plans, and on that basis, Noem will score some points with him. (V)

Another Goal for Trump v2.0: Christian Nationalism

We have written about Donald Trump's plans for a second term in detail as far back as last May. He's not keeping them a secret. More recently we discussed his plans here and here. His previous goals dealt with pardons, firing civil servants, education, law enforcement, gender issues, crime, guns, and "freedom cities." These are all more-or-less legitimate policy issues except the pardons and the idea of firing 50,000 top civil servants and replacing them with his lackeys.

But now he seems to have latched onto a new idea: Christian nationalism. This is the concept that the founding parents were Christians, so Christian theology should rule the country. The role model here is Iran, with some minor substitutions. In reality, many of the founding parents were not Christians, but deists who didn't worship Jesus and believed that God created the world and then went off on vacation so it is up to people to figure out how to solve their problems and not ask for help.

Trump has enlisted former director of OMB Russell Vought to work out the details. He is currently active in a group preparing for a second Trump term and is considered a potential chief of staff for Trump v2.0. Vought has strongly embraced the idea that the secularization of America is an evil to be fought. One of his ideas is invoking the Insurrection Act on day one, thus making the president an effective dictator who can suppress all dissent by force. Another pet idea of his is having Trump use a line-item veto to eliminate items he doesn't like in the budget bill. Actually, Congress once passed a bill, the Line Item Veto Act, authorizing the president to cross out any items in the budget he disliked, but the Supreme Court said "we think not" and declared the law to be unconstitutional. But who cares what the Supreme Court thinks? They are a bunch of old fuddy duddies and aren't with the program.

One specific issue Vought is working on is immigration. He wants only people who accept his God's teachings to be let in. That might not actually be a good criterion for Trump, since most of the people showing up at the Mexican border are Catholics who worship the same God that Vought does. Vought is also working with Project 2025, which is developing a plan to radically restructure the federal government to bring it in line with Trump's thinking. Among other things, it would make the president essentially a dictator and sideline all administrative agencies, and, to a considerable extent, also Congress.

Vought is also a supporter of the concept of "Natural Law." This is the belief that laws passed by Congress cannot overrule laws in the Bible. Biblical law overrides secular law and decisions by judges. It is more-or-less the translation of Sharia law into English.

Vought is not the only person who has Trump's ear. So does former NSA Michael Flynn, who not only supports Christian nationalism, but is also organizing an Army of God to put Christianity at the center of American life. Another person Trump listens to is William Wolfe, a former Trump administration official who wants to overturn same-sex marriage, end abortion, and also reduce access to contraceptives (which will increase the demand for abortions). In short, Trump has big plans for the country if he wins. (V)

Biden Has Canceled Student Debt for Almost 4 Million former Students

Joe Biden wanted to cancel some student loan debt for tens of millions of students but the Supreme Court shot him down, ruling that only Congress can do that. Nevertheless, Biden is using some existing laws to cancel some student debt for some former students. Yesterday, another 153,000 people received an e-mail telling them that their debt has been canceled. The e-mail contains a note from Biden reminding them who canceled their debt.

These former students are not the only ones to have (part of) their debt canceled by Biden. So far, using a repayment plan called SAVE (SAving on a Valuable Education), he has canceled $138 billion in student debt for 3.9 million borrowers, most of whom are also voters. The people who get relief must have borrowed less than $12,000 and made payments for at least 10 years. Many of the people whose debt was canceled fall into some specific category for which the president has the explicit power to cancel their debt. These include public-service workers, people defrauded by for-profit colleges, and people who have been repaying for at least 20 years. Not all 27 million borrowers will get relief by a longshot, but 3.9 million is still a lot of voters. Biden is planning to encourage all qualifying former students to enroll in various federal programs that would allow them to get (some) relief. Many people who qualify don't know about these programs and Biden hopes that informing them will increase enrollment. (V)

Nikki Haley Agrees That Frozen Zygotes Are Children

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled last week that fertilized eggs are legally children. In IVF procedures, often multiple eggs are harvested and fertilized as backups in case the first one does not result in a viable pregnancy. Once that happens, the others are destroyed. In Alabama, that will now be illegal. If many other states adopted the Alabama ruling, IVF will effectively cease to be an option for childless couples in those states.

Yesterday, Nikki Haley came out in support of the Alabama decision. Her hypocrisy is truly stunning. She said: "Embryos, to me, are babies." Just to get the terminology right, a fertilized egg is called a zygote. After a few days, it becomes a morula and by the fifth day it becomes a round ball called a blastocyst. Later it becomes an embryo. In the IVF procedure, generally what is frozen is the zygote or blastocyst. Blastocysts can be tested for genetic abnormalities before keeping the good ones for transfer into the hopeful mother or freezing.

Haley has revealed that her son was born using artificial insemination. This is a different procedure than IVF, but both artificial insemination and IVF can be used when a couple wants a child and is unable to have one using conventional means. If the problem lies with the man, then artificial insemination by injecting donor sperm can be used, but if the problem lies with the woman, then IVF can sometimes be used. So Haley had no problem using medical technology when it suited her desire for a child, but she is fine with making it more difficult and expensive for other women to have a baby using medical technology. In principle, when IVF is used, the doctor could collect a single egg, fertilize it, and transfer it, but if that fails, the whole process has to be repeated. Typically 5-15 eggs are collected per cycle, fertilized, allowed to develop for a few days, and then the good ones are frozen. This gives the best results, but it results in unneeded frozen zygotes or blastocysts after the woman gets pregnant. Keeping them forever is expensive and pointless, but that is what the Alabama ruling will now require since destroying them will be premeditated murder.

What we find so cynical is Haley's acceptance of medically aided reproductive technology when she needed it but her willingness to deny it to women for whom artificial insemination is not a solution. The technical term for this is "pandering to abortion absolutists." IVF is not a simple procedure and the Alabama ruling will basically end it in that state. To understand what a woman has to go through in IVF, read this column by Monica Hesse. IVF is not a walk in the park. (V)

Republican Parties in Three Swing States Are Consumed with Infighting

The state parties play a huge role in getting candidates elected. They help pick candidates, train them, raise money for them, provide them with election material, and organize GOTV (get out the vote) drives. In practice, they are far more important to winning elections than the DNC and RNC, which don't really do much besides fundraising.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, in no fewer than three key swing states, the state Republican Party is in turmoil, with Trumpy Republicans fighting non-Trumpy Republicans tooth and nail for control. With the election season nigh, these battles could distract them from their core business of winning elections.

Michigan is probably the worst. Kristina Karamo, a failed secretary of state candidate and far-right Trumpist with a master's degree from the Talbot School of Theology in Christian Apologetics, got herself elected chair of the Michigan Republican Party. She ran the state party into the ground and saddled it up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Despite her degree, she didn't apologize to anyone. Eventually, the state Republican Committee fired her but she refused to go. The RNC eventually stepped in and appointed Pete Hoekstra as the new chairman. Still, Karamo didn't apologize and didn't go.

The Michigan delegate allocation plan calls for the state primary allocating 16 delegates and a state convention allocating 39 more delegates. Karamo is planning to run her own convention on March 2, in direct competition with the official convention the same day. This could lead to a credentials fight at the national convention. Since she is much Trumpier than Hoekstra, Donald Trump might side with her, generating lots of negative press at the start of the convention. Internal warfare is hardly the way to carry the state for Trump and win a key open-seat Senate race, but Karamo shows no signs of giving up.

A similar battle is going on in Arizona, a state that is turning purple, with the governor, secretary of state, AG, and both senators elected as Democrats. The state GOP chair, Jeff DeWit, resigned 3 weeks ago after pretend-governor Kari Lake released an audio recording of him trying to bribe her to get out of the Senate race. She promised to release even more recordings if he didn't resign. He resigned. DeWit was only moderately Trumpy, but he has been replaced by Gina Swoboda, who is very Trumpy. Her elevation makes election denial a key plank of the state party now. Kari Lake is probably going to be the Senate nominee and she is a fire-breathing Trumpist. This is not a good place to be in a state that has a growing Latino population and that is moving from being the state of Barry Goldwater and John McCain to being a state where Democrats are now winning statewide elections regularly.

Georgia is the third state where Republicans are fighting other Republicans. Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) are not election deniers and do not take their marching orders from Trump. The party chairman, Josh McKoon, is a strong Trumper. This has led Kemp to try to redirect funds from the official state party to a shadow party under his control. At an official state party meeting recently, Trump showed up to lambast Fani Willis but Kemp didn't even show up. Having the governor give the state party a cold shoulder is generally not a good sign.

One thing that could become an issue is the choice of presidential electors. In these states, and some others, the state parties pick the slate of electors. Given the shenanigans in 2020, it is certainly possible that Trumpy electors will send their electoral votes to the National Archives and the Senate, even if Trump loses the state. Then we could get battles and votes in Congress to decide which slate to accept. If Republicans control either or both chambers, they could vote to accept the slate of Trump electors, even if Trump lost the state. At that point we would be in deep doo-doo.

Another issue could be court challenges to the election results. The state parties generally have standing on election lawsuits, so it matters who controls the state parties.

In addition, the state parties often play a big role in selecting candidates for down-ballot races. State parties controlled by Trumpists are increasingly making a belief that Trump won in 2020 a requirement to be chosen. Having the state parties picking inexperienced election deniers who want to campaign on refighting the 2020 election is simply a great boon for the Democrats. Maybe these state parties and others will eventually get over their internal backbiting and focus on winning elections, but it is far from certain. (V)

Giuliani May Appeal $148 Million Judgment--If Someone Else Pays

After getting socked with a $148 million judgment for defaming two Georgia election workers, Rudy Giuliani manned up—and filed for bankruptcy. Now his fate is in the hands of a bankruptcy judge. Giuliani wants to appeal the judgment in order to get the appeals court to lower the amount he has to pay, although it hardly matters. If the appeals court throws out 90% of the award and reduces it to $14.8 million, it won't help. Giuliani doesn't have that. He is close to broke. He still hasn't sold his Manhattan apartment, which he has been trying to unload for $6 million for half a year. Even if he sells it, he might not get the full $6 million since he may have a mortgage. We don't know.

But Giuliani has other bad luck to deal with. The bankruptcy judge, Sean Lane, has ruled that Giuliani may file an appeal only if he can find someone else to pay all the costs associated with the appeal. He is not allowed to use his own money (as if he had any), since that has to be reserved to pay the Georgia election workers who sued him.

Appeals are expensive. Can Giuliani raise that kind of money? It is not out of the question. He is a co-defendant, along with Donald Trump, in the Georgia RICO case. That defense is also going to cost him money. One way out would be to flip and testify against Trump. It is possible that some wealthy Trump supporter might be willing to help Giuliani out with both appealing the civil case and hiring counsel for the criminal case, in return for Giuliani not flipping. (V)

Porter Finally Gets Under Schiff's Skin in Final Senate Debate

The race to be the definitive replacement for the late Dianne Feinstein in the Senate is in the home stretch. If the polls are even roughly correct, the battle for first place is over and has been won by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). The real battle now is between Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) and former baseball player Steve Garvey (R) for second place and a slot on the November ballot. In the final debate, with four participants, Porter's strategy was to get under Schiff's skin and get him annoyed. She may have achieved that with her performance in the hour-long debate.

Schiff's strategy the past few weeks has been to go whole hog on ratf**king. He has been running ads telling Californians that they shouldn't vote for Garvey because he is a true conservative. His goal is to drive up Republican turnout and have Garvey come in second. Porter understands this perfectly and, in the previous debates, has targeted Garvey. This time she went after Schiff, attacking him for not voting for House bills that could have provided childcare costs or provided renters with rent assistance. He deflected those easily. Eventually she tried something else: his taking money from people in industries Democrats hate, including oil, drug, and financial companies. He finally engaged her, accusing her of taking money from those industries as well.

One issue that came up and is very sensitive is the border. Joe Biden is desperate for some kind of bill and will sign pretty much anything that can get through Congress. On the other hand, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) opposes all the bills as giveaways to the Republicans without getting much in return. Schiff hadn't taken a position until the debate. Would he back Biden or the senior California senator? On stage he decided to throw in with Padilla and oppose the bill. He said: "I would support a package that had a comprehensive immigration reform. This was not that." That is probably the more popular position for a Democrat in a California primary. On the other hand, Rep. Barbara Lee (D), Porter, and Garvey all also opposed the bill, so there is no daylight between any of them. You can't make an election issue out of a bill that both of you oppose. "I hate the bill more than you hate the bill" is not a great campaign slogan.

Garvey knows that most of what the national Republicans want won't fly in California, so he simply decided to go heavy on platitudes and light on specifics. For example, he said America is "the torchbearer for democracy." When he was asked to square that with his support for Donald Trump, he simply said: "As your senator, I will do everything to maintain your security." That response prompted Porter to try to weaken him in the eyes of Republican voters by making him look squishy on Trump. She even told the Republicans watching that another Republican in the race, Eric Early, was Trumpier than Garvey. We doubt if many Republicans are going to take voting advice from a progressive Democrat like Porter, though. The primary is the week after next, on Super Tuesday, March 5. (V)

Poll: Casey Leads McCormick in Pennsylvania Senate Race

In 2022, the NRSC tried in vain to get Connecticut resident and wealthy hedge fund manager David McCormick the Republican senatorial nomination over New Jersey resident and television quack Mehmet Oz. Oz won the GOP nomination but the general election was won by now-Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA). This year there is another Senate election in Pennsylvania, with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) up for reelection. Again the NRSC tried to have McCormick be the GOP nominee, and this time it might work. But getting your favorite guy to be the nominee is not the same as winning the seat.

A new Emerson College poll has Casey at 49% and McCormick at 39%, with the rest undecided. Part of Casey's lead is due to independents, who favor the Senator by 21 points. Casey does especially well with highly educated voters, with 60% of voters with a postgraduate degree supporting him.

One advantage that Casey has, as all incumbents do, is that he is much better known, especially since McCormick has never held elective office and doesn't even live in Pennsylvania. No doubt Casey is going to bring this up a few times later this year, possibly complimenting his opponent on leaving musty old Connecticut for the vibrant state of Pennsylvania.

The poll also asked about the presidential race. When the only choices were Joe Biden and Donald Trump, Trump won 45% to 43%. However, when Robert Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Jill Stein were also offered as options, Trump dropped 3 points to 42% and Biden dropped 6 points to 37%. This supports the conventional wisdom that the third-party candidates hurt Biden more than they hurt Trump. Many of the defectors are probably progressive Democrats who think Biden is too timid and who don't like his position on Israel. But remember, historically, early in the cycle, lots of people tell the pollsters they aren't going to take it anymore and will vote third party, but in the end the thought of the other team winning gets to them and they come home.

Quinnipiac University also just released a national poll. In a head-to-head race, it has Biden at 49% and Trump at 45%. When the third-party candidates were included, Trump dropped 8 points and Biden dropped 11 points. It is hard to reconcile these two polls. They are in direct conflict, since Pennsylvania's electorate pretty closely mirrors the national electorate. It is possible that the two firms have very different models of the electorate. However, one thing that both of them show is that the third-party candidates hurt Biden more than Trump. This is a feature, not a bug. West and Stein don't expect to win. What they want to do is show the Democrats that while third-party candidates can't win, they can cause the Democrats to lose, so the Democrats had better adopt all their policies. Of course if the Democrats did this, the Green Party would just move the goalposts farther to the left and make new demands. And who knows what Kennedy wants. We sure don't. (V)

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