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  /  News   /  Trump VP race creates army of surrogates while he’s tied up in court

Trump VP race creates army of surrogates while he’s tied up in court

Former President Trump is using the audition process for his running mate to create an army of surrogates willing to defend him and echo his talking points while he is tied up in a Manhattan courtroom.

As vice-presidential contenders vie for Trump’s attention and favor, they are flooding the airwaves to lift up his candidacy and attack President Biden.

Republican Sens. Tim Scott (S.C.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) as well as North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), all of whom are on the shortlist to be Trump’s running mate, made Sunday political show appearances in the hopes the former president might be tuning in.

Trump himself acknowledged the strategy in an interview on Tuesday. Allies said the former president is likely to draw out his selection process to keep the lengthy list of contenders competing for the role. 

“They’re all out there campaigning,” Trump told Spectrum News 1 in Wisconsin. “It might actually be more effective this way because, you know, every one of them thinks they could be chosen, which I guess possibly is so — but we have a lot of people, we have a lot of great surrogates out … really great surrogates, many of them are being considered for VP.”

Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, has maintained a growing shortlist of potential vice presidential candidates that includes Scott, Rubio, Burgum, Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), among others.

The former president has been coy about whom he favors as his running mate, downplaying its potential impact on November’s election and signaling he may not make an announcement until close to the Republican National Convention scheduled for mid-July.

That has left those vying for the vice presidential slot to do what they can to stay in Trump’s good graces and garner his attention to get a leg up on the competition. In many cases, that means going on television, where Trump is often watching.

“Everybody right now is very cognizant of what Trump makes of things, and there’s no question he sees almost everything,” Sean Spicer, who served as one of Trump’s White House press secretaries, told The Hill. “It’s basically having a conversation with him.”

It also gives them a chance to be out front while Trump spends up to four days a week sitting in a courtroom during his hush money trial in New York and away from the cameras.

Scott, the South Carolina senator who is viewed as one of the stronger contenders to join the GOP ticket, repeatedly refused to commit to accepting the 2024 election results no matter who wins during a “Meet the Press” interview on Sunday. That appearance came days after Trump himself hedged over whether he would accept the election results.

Vance, another potential VP front-runner, last week downplayed Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and said he was skeptical then-Vice President Mike Pence’s life was ever in danger. Trump has similarly minimized the violence of Jan. 6 throughout his 2024 campaign.

And Burgum went on CNN on Sunday to criticize the hush money trial in New York and defend some of Trump’s controversial comments during a donor retreat the day before, including one in which the former president compared the Biden administration to the Gestapo.

Having a stable of surrogates hitting the airwaves is particularly beneficial for Trump at a time when he is attending court on charges of falsifying business records over a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump speaks to reporters before and after court each day, typically making the same complaints that he is not able to be on the campaign trail and that the case is political interference. Trump has used his off days from the trial to campaign on a limited basis, holding rallies in Wisconsin and Michigan but otherwise spending his free time golfing and holding private fundraisers.

Strategists and Trump allies argued it would be wise for Trump to continue drawing out the vice-presidential selection process as long as the Manhattan case is going on.

“He is not going to pick anyone right now because he’s in court, and he needs everyone to be as strong a surrogate as possible for him,” said one Republican strategist. “And frankly, it’s a good test while everyone is duking it out.”

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has suggested he would be open to a role in a future Trump administration, likened the ongoing veepstakes to Trump’s career before politics.

“I think Trump’s gonna play this like ‘The Apprentice,’” McCarthy said Tuesday at the Milken Institute Conference. “He’s going to play it out. He’s going to make you join [Truth Social] … And whoever you think’s in the lead, somebody’s going to come up from behind. It’s going to make great television.”