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Why the VP picks may matter more than usual in 2024: From the Politics Desk

Plus, a look inside Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s process for a selecting a running mate.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 2023 in New York City.Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images file

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, political reporter Allan Smith interviews one of the contenders to be Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s running mate. Plus, "Meet the Press" moderator Kristen Welker explains why the vice presidential picks may matter more than usual this election.


Inside RFK Jr.’s VP selection process — according to one of the contenders

By Allan Smith

Mike Rowe thought he was walking into a meeting with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to talk about his efforts to bolster the skilled trades. 

It became “pretty clear right away,” Rowe said, that the conversation, which occurred about a month ago, would be much broader. The room had not only Kennedy, but was also packed with several staffers for his independent presidential campaign. And it turns out Rowe, best known as the host of the Discovery Channel show “Dirty Jobs,” was being interviewed as part of Kennedy’s vice-presidential selection process.


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In an interview with NBC News, Rowe laid out the most detailed look yet at how Kennedy is vetting potential ticket mates. Rowe said he and Kennedy ran through the candidate’s views on key issues and policy areas, as he made clear he doesn’t want a running mate who sees “eye to eye” with him on everything.

Rowe is among a handful of contenders to serve as Kennedy’s running mate. The list includes New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Jesse Ventura, the WWE star and former governor of Minnesota. Kennedy’s campaign has announced it will reveal his VP selection in Oakland on March 26. Rowe neither confirmed nor denied that he had been offered the job.

 Rowe said he and Kennedy spoke at length about workforce development and Rowe’s advocacy, with Rowe pushing back on criticisms Kennedy raised about him being “anti-college” or “anti-education,” which the TV and podcast host denied. But Rowe said Kennedy also spent a lot of time discussing the national debt, ending “the forever wars” and waging “his own war on chronic disease.”

Kennedy expressed interest in creating a “team of rivals” around him in advisory roles, Rowe said. Rowe recalled Kennedy saying he did not want to surround himself with “yes men and yes women.”

“The funny thing through all of it was I, I must have reminded him a dozen times that I’m probably not your guy,” Rowe said. “We don’t agree on this. We don’t agree on that. Look, I’m in business with people in the energy business who he’s sued multiple times over the years. And he laughed and said, ‘Yeah, I know that. I just don’t believe I’m going to find anyone who agrees with me on every single thing. And I really like what you stand for.’”

Read more here →


Why the veeps will matter more in 2024

Analysis by Kristen Welker

It’s been a big week for the vice president and the contenders who might vie for her job, underscoring that the No. 2 on the ticket may have a larger impact on the campaign than usual. 

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Minnesota on Thursday to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic, becoming what is believed to be the first president or vice president to tour a facility providing abortion services.

Kennedy Jr. is now set to announce the VP pick for his independent campaign later this month.

And speculation about former President Donald Trump’s eventual running mate has commenced. The early possibilities include South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik. 

Add up all the activity and discussion, and it highlights why the presidential candidates’ VP choices could matter more in 2024 compared to recent elections.

It matters because of the ages of both President Joe Biden (81 years old) and Trump (77 years old), as well as all of the legal challenges that the former president faces.

It matters because polls show that Harris is even less popular than Biden, and Trump’s allies are already airing TV ads targeting her.

“If Biden wins, can he even survive till 2029?” asks a narrator in an ad from a pro-Trump super PAC. “The real question is: Can we?” the narrator continues before featuring a clip of Harris laughing.

And it matters for Kennedy’s ability to qualify for the ballot, as at least 26 states require him to file for president with a running mate’s name attached.

VP nominees have rarely played a large role in our presidential campaigns, with voters typically making up their minds based on who is at the very top of the ticket. (Sarah Palin might be the only modern exception.)

But 2024 could be a very different campaign, where the VPs take center stage and ultimately help shape the race for the White House.



🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 🍑 Trump trials: Special prosecutor Nathan Wade resigned his post after a judge ruled that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could remain on the racketeering case against Trump in Georgia if he stepped aside. The judge found the “appearance of impropriety” brought about by Willis’ romantic relationship with Wade should result in one of them leaving the case. Read more →
  • ⚖️ Trump trials, cont.: Meanwhile, the New York hush money trial against Trump has been delayed until the middle of April, a judge ruled. Read more →
  • 🇮🇱 Democrats double down : Biden praised the speech delivered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday in which he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “lost his way” and called for new elections in Israel. Read more →
  • 🚫 Blocked and reported: The Supreme Court ruled that members of the public in some circumstances can sue public officials for blocking them on social media platforms, deciding a pair of cases against the backdrop of Trump’s contentious use of Twitter. Read more →
  • 💲Not Good: Virginia GOP Rep. Bob Good, the chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, is facing opposition from his own party in his primary. The Republican Main Street Partnership is planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars against him, The New York Times reports. Read more →
  • 🐘 All over the map: House Republicans who gathered at their annual policy retreat this week agree they support in vitro fertilization, but they can’t seem to agree on how to protect it. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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