A man who’s famous for firing people on TV is now preparing to make the most important hire of his career.
Donald Trump’s campaign is working to narrow down its list of possible vice presidential candidates, weighing the strengths and weaknesses of a shortlist of potential picks.
Trump, who has no military or government experience, is said to seek a second-in-command with the policy and political experience to navigate a law-making system that remains largely opaque to the real estate mogul. And Trump’s uniquely bombastic demeanor means that he faces a unique challenge in arranging a political marriage that also won’t exacerbate an already fractured Republican Party.
Trump aides have also said publicly and privately that the campaign will not make a pick based on gender or race. “That would be viewed as pandering,” campaign chair Paul Manafort said earlier this year.
Another factor that can’t be ignored: Trump, 70, would be the oldest president ever to take office.
The choice may also be muddled by the campaign turmoil that led to the abrupt departure of Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was dismissed by the campaign last week.
Here’s a look at some of the top candidates and what we know about them:
John Thune: Thune, a telegenic senator deeply versed in Senate strategy, would easily clear Trump’s bar for knowledge of how political negotiations work in Washington. At 55, he’s experienced but still relatively young. As a member of Senate leadership who’s very visible to reporters on the Hill, Thune has been fairly measured in criticism of Trump in the aftermaths of the candidate’s most controversial comments. (He has recently questioned Trump’s campaign strategy, saying of Trump’s business jaunt to Scotland, “I'm not sure what the purpose of the trip is.”)
Bob Corker: Corker has been an important Capitol Hill ally of Trump’s campaign in the face of plenty of party disarray. Viewed as a pragmatist and former businessman who has worked with Democrats in the past, Corker would fit the mold of a negotiator able to translate Trump’s “deals” into legislation. And as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he could soothe those wary of Trump’s lack of knowledge of global affairs.
Chris Christie: If unconditional loyalty is what the candidate wants, the New Jersey governor’s audition has gone pretty well. Perhaps more than any other high-profile Republican, Christie has been almost unwavering in his support of the presumptive nominee. The pair’s outspoken temperaments are also similar, though perhaps not complimentary. Christie is still tinged with the dragged-out aftermath of the Bridgegate scandal, too. His role as the transition coordination for Trump’s campaign could be a hint that he’s not in the running for the No. 2 job, but a post like attorney general could be a consolation prize instead.
Rick Scott: In some ways, Scott and Trump are cut from the same cloth. Both are wealthy businessmen who came late to politics, pumped millions of their own money into their campaigns and emphasized their private sector bona fides. Unlike many possible contenders, the Florida governor hails from a swing state – probably the election’s most important one. But he’s not particularly popular there, hovering just underwater in public polling of his approval rating. And while he’s got governing experience, he’s not the kind of Washington savant Trump might need to navigate Congress.
IN THE HUNT
Mary Fallin: A former congresswoman and current governor of Oklahoma, Fallin has political experience inside and outside of Washington. (She also served as the head of the National Governors Association for two years.) But she’s been openly campaigning for the job, which could make her less appealing to Trump.
Mike Pence: The Indiana governor, first elected in 2012, has the kind of extensive resume that has prompted White House speculation before. A former six-term congressman who chaired the Republican House Conference -- as well as the Republican Study Committee -- he's admired by social conservatives, policy wonks and evangelicals. He's facing a tough re-election battle, which could make joining the ticket more appealing. A possible strike against him: He endorsed Trump rival Ted Cruz before Indiana's primary, which the real estate mogul ultimately won.
Jeff Sessions: Sessions, one of Trump’s closest policy advisers, is ideologically aligned with Trump enough that he could be a fallback option if the campaign’s top picks balk from the job. But as a 69 year-old from Alabama, Sessions brings neither youth nor a geographical advantage to the table. Also, past controversies over statements about African-Americans – which bedeviled Sessions’ hopes of becoming a federal judge -- would underscore accusations of Trump’s racial insensitivities.
Newt Gingrich: A former Speaker of the House, Gingrich certainly fulfills the requirement of knowing his way around Capitol Hill. But, like Christie, Gingrich’s personality -- and well-documented personal ambition – might not be a great match for a billionaire who’s used to being the top dog. And at 73, he’s even older than Trump.
ON THE BUBBLE
Kelly Ayotte: Trump is said to like the New Hampshire senator’s resume and record. The big question would be whether she would play ball; she’s facing a difficult re-election fight in a swing state against a popular Democrat.
Scott Brown: Brown is pro-choice, lacks more than a (short) term of Senate experience after winning the 2010 special election in Massachusetts, and was famously defeated in back-to-back elections – once by Trump nemesis Elizabeth Warren. But he could be a TV-ready surrogate with some real juice among conservative activists.