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  /  News   /  Vance challenges Scott for top spot on Trump VP shortlist

Vance challenges Scott for top spot on Trump VP shortlist

Sen. JD Vance’s (R-Ohio) surprise appearance at a Manhattan courthouse to support former President Trump, and his qualified answer about supporting the results of the 2024 election, show he’s challenging Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) as the Senate front-runner to be Trump’s running mate in the fall.

GOP senators and strategists say it’s hard to predict whom Trump will choose, but they say Scott and Vance are viewed as the two most likely choices within the Senate GOP conference.

Vance and Scott are stepping up their efforts to grab Trump’s attention by staying close to his orbit and showing off their skills and loyalty.

Vance showed up Monday in Lower Manhattan to rip District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) prosecution of Trump as politically motivated and pan the judge’s handling of the trial as a “disgrace.”

He told Fox News host Martha MacCallum on Tuesday that he was there “to support a friend,” calling it a “very depressing way to spend five, six weeks of your life when you know that you’re innocent.”

He will also attend an intimate, high-dollar fundraiser with Trump in Cincinnati on Wednesday. Guests are being asked to contribute $50,000 per person to a joint fundraising committee for the occasion.

Scott, meanwhile, was scheduled to attend a high-dollar fundraising even for Trump in Manhattan on Tuesday, with tickets costing $100,000 and a photo and a seat in the VIP section costing nearly $900,000.

Scott will host a policy summit in Washington next month with major donors and power players including Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of the investment fund Citadel; Bill Ackman, the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management; Marc Rowan, the CEO of Apollo Global Management, and Tim Dunn, the founder of CrownQuest.

Scott is well-liked among Senate GOP colleagues, and some Republicans are urging Trump to diversify his ticket to appeal to Black and Hispanic voters who are unhappy with President Biden’s economic record.  

But Vance has been better at generating buzz than Scott, whose presidential campaign failed to generate much excitement despite lavish funding, including a $40 million ad reservation from an aligned super PAC.

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

“Those two seem to be the most prominent candidates,” GOP strategist Vin Weber said of Scott and Vance, at least among Republicans in Washington.

“From what I hear, Donald Trump is really, really interested in trying to increase his percentage of the Black vote. He doesn’t like the fact that he was called a racist repeatedly by people on the left. He thinks he’s got a chance to increase her percentage of the Black vote. So most of the people I talk to say, ‘Probably Tim Scott,’” he said.

But Weber said people shouldn’t count out Vance as a potential running mate, given his impressive persuasion skills, which he flashed by spearheading Senate opposition to Ukraine war funding.

“I think JD Vance is a great communicator,” he said. “If Trump wants somebody on the ticket that can communicate his message particularly well — not just, ‘Yay, rah rah Trump,’ but, ‘This is why you should be for him’ — I think JD Vance is better.”

Trump allies say the former president will run his vice presidential selection process like an episode of “The Apprentice.” Right now, Vance and Scott are squaring off, dividing the Senate GOP conference into two different rooting sections.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is also said to be on Trump’s shortlist of vice presidential picks, but the fact that he is from the same state as Trump — Florida — poses complications. He was also expected to attend the Trump fundraiser in New York on Tuesday.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) endorsed Scott’s presidential bid against Trump, and many others in the GOP conference sing his praises, touting his unique life story and ability to appeal to Black and moderate Republican voters.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is vying with Thune to become the next Senate GOP leader, observed Tuesday that presidential candidates traditionally pick a running mate who can attract new voters to the campaign.

“I look back at the reason he chose [former Vice President] Mike Pence, and that was to appeal to a broader cross section of people, and typically that’s what presidents do. But obviously there’s one person that’s going to be making that decision, and we don’t know what he’s thinking,” he said.

“A lot of these people are my friends, who I work with, so I wish them good luck,” Cornyn said, declining to express a preference for either senator.

One Republican senator, who requested anonymity to discuss the race for vice president without bruising any colleague’s ego, argued that Scott would be the best choice.

“Two white men on the Republican ticket in 2024 is a bad idea when you have really good alternatives,” the senator said. “I think Tim is No. 1 — No. 1, 2 and 3.”

Vance’s star rose when he emerged this year as a leading opponent to funding the war in Ukraine, winning plaudits even from his Republican opponents for being the most articulate voice among conservatives who want to end U.S. intervention in the war.

He worked closely with a cadre of conservative allies, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to derail the bipartisan border security deal that had been attached to Ukraine funding.

Vance declared Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) out of touch with Republican voters on the war, part of a barrage of conservative attacks on the leader that preceded his announcement he would step down as GOP leader at the end of the year.

Matt Dole, an Ohio-based Republican strategist, said Vance is “certainly seeking out the spotlight,” noting he went to Mar-a-Lago recently, went to the trial and is hosting the fundraiser with Trump in Ohio.

“He’s getting that face time with the president,” he said. “Certainly the timing indicates he is interested and seeking to get on the radar.”

Dole noted Vance was “not always a Trump guy” and supported former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s (R) presidential campaign in 2016, but “came around on the president and appreciates what President Trump achieved while he was in office.”

He cited Vance’s life story as chronicled in his memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” growing up amid the poverty of Appalachia before enlisting in the Marines and eventually attending Yale Law School.

“He brings an outsider view to the ticket. Certainly, Trump is an outsider. Vance’s story is different. …. It’s pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and showing that the American Dream is still alive, and in that way probably looks good to a lot of folks,” Dole said.

Vance, when he spoke to reporters in New York, pushed back on the notion that he’s auditioning to become Trump’s running mate. But that hasn’t quelled the speculation about his ambitions.

Scott’s allies in the Senate like to tout his remarkable life story, growing up in a poor single-parent household in North Charleston and eventually becoming the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said Scott has a bigger national profile than Vance and could appeal to a broader swath of the electorate.

“I think Tim, certainly,” he said when asked who would be the stronger vice presidential pick.

“Tim does bring probably a broader appeal to the general election voting demographic,” he added. “Tim’s just got a little bigger profile, been around longer.”

Scott, for example, played a key role in crafting the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Trump’s biggest legislative achievement, as a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

And Scott allies say if he were elected vice president, his legislative experience in the Senate would help advance Trump’s agenda through Congress.

And Cramer noted Scott’s unique story as a Black Republican who has lived the American dream.

“His story is phenomenal. His story of success from humble beginnings is very appealing. It’s very moving, it’s very real. And he’s an exceptional person,” he said. “He could definitely be president if necessary.”

But Cramer noted that then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) won the Democratic nomination and then the presidency in 2008 despite serving only a few years in the Senate, propelled instead by his oratorical skill and youthful energy.

“I think a little more time makes us all better, a little more experience in this town, in this institution,” he said. “He’s younger. He hasn’t put in the time and the preparation. On the other hand, Barack Obama served two years in the Senate, and he became president.”