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Will it be Trump-Stefanik in 2024?

Mike McCartney

4th February 2024

Rumours abound about who will be on the GOP ticket as veep

The Vice President’s role in US government is one of the many paradoxes about politics in that country. On the one had the powers of the veep in constitutional terms are very limited, but at the same time they are said to be 'just a heartbeat from the presidency', with eight incumbents having died in office (four being assassinated, of course) – and vacating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue before facing impeachment proceedings.

As John Adams, the nation’s first veep, said, “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” In constitutional terms the VP has a very limited role. Historically, therefore, the role of VP has not been significant until recent decades, mirroring the growth in the size and scope of the roe of the executive branch. And this is where the unofficial dimensions of the office gets interesting. Al Gore as Bill Clinton’s deputy took a key role in environmental policy and reorganising government, Dick Cheney (as listeners of the Bush/Blair podcast I have frequently plugged will testify) was a driving force behind America’s intervention in Iraq. So we have seen the development of a 'dual presidency' or 'co-presidency' thesis.

But how important is the vice-presidential candidate at election time? Academic thinking is that swing voters aren’t voting for Vice President (VP), and therefore who is second on the ticket doesn’t positively influence their vote by all that much (an exception here is LBJ in 1960). Indeed, polls suggest that if anything people tend to vote against rather than for VP candidates. But it could have some beneficial effect in influencing those who are natural party voters who carry doubts about their presidential candidate. This means that the VP choice might potentially motivate supporters to rally around their candidates.

And in an exceptionally close election, this could prove crucial. This theme was picked up in a recent article in the Observer.

"The stakes are unusually high this time and the oft-quoted old saw from Franklin Roosevelt’s deputy John Nance Garner – “The vice-presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm piss” – may not apply in 2024: Biden is 81 and Trump is 77, meaning that a vice-president’s ability to assume command has never been more pertinent.

Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution thinktank at Stanford University, said: “A wary, sceptical voter is going to be thinking: ‘OK, what happens if … ?’ It makes the choice of the running mate all the more important.

“We talk about this every election and we then dismiss it as voters don’t really think that way. But it’s on the table in this election in ways it hasn’t been in the past because you are focusing on the candidate’s health and their mental faculty, and the chance that one or both could not finish out a term.

“That does lead to a different calculation with Trump in this regard. It’s not so much about picking up some electoral votes or reaching out to a group. It is the question of picking somebody who credibly can say they’re ready to lead from day one. You would think their chops would be more important than just their demographic.”"

So who is the hot-favourite to join Trump as the presumptive nominee this time round? As the Observer article stated:

"When he first ran for president in 2016, Trump understood that he needed a vice-presidential pick who could help shore up support among Republican evangelicals and social conservatives, who were suspicious of the thrice-married reality TV star. Pence, the then Indiana governor and fierce social conservative, was from what Trump likes to call central casting.

This year Trump’s allies and Republican strategists believe that he needs help attracting suburban swing voters in a handful of battleground states, where November’s election will likely be decided. Many commentatorstherefore predict that he will choose a woman or a person of colour, especially since the demise of the constitutional right to abortion.

Michael Steele, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, said one of the factors important to Trump is “just how much of a sycophant they would be, not just in terms of ‘Oh, I love you, Donald Trump’, but do you love me enough when I tell you to violate your oath of office in the constitution that you’ll do it?’ And that person for me is Elise Stefanik.”"

And just who is Elise Stefanik?

Quick-fire true or false questions on the video segment...

1. Elise Stefanik graduated from Harvard University.
2. Elise Stefanik worked for George W. Bush after graduating from Harvard.
3. Elise Stefanik helped Paul Ryan prepare for a debate against Joe Biden.
4. Elise Stefanik's work in helping Paul Ryan prep for a debate was considered a success.
5. Elise Stefanik ran for Congress and became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at that time.
6. Elise Stefanik has been reelected multiple times and is currently serving her fifth term.
7. Elise Stefanik has always been a diehard supporter of Donald Trump.
8. Elise Stefanik voted with Donald Trump 78% of the time.
9. Elise Stefanik initially disagreed with Trump's claims of a rigged election in 2016.
10. Elise Stefanik would vote to certify the results of the 2024 election, no matter what they show.

Correct answers:
1. True
2. True
3. True
4. False - It didn't go down in history as Ryan's Shining Moment.
5. True
6. True
7. False - She transformed into a diehard Trumper later on.
8. True
9. True
10. False - She voted not to certify the state of Pennsylvania in a previous election.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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