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BREAKING: Who Should Be Trump’s No. 2?

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“Who should President Trump choose for V.P.?” is one of the most popular questions among the political cognoscenti right now. It’s understandable: Donald Trump won both Iowa and New Hampshire with more than 50 percent of the vote, after his closest competitors spent sick amounts of time and money trying to persuade voters to “move on” from him. Polling in Nevada, South Carolina and other upcoming primary and caucus states suggests that Mr. Trump remains in a solid position and that there is little to no “math path” for the remaining Republican competitor, his former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

Electability is edging close to inevitability. His dominance in the polls and at the polls this year make clear the will of the people: They want Mr. Trump to be No. 1. Hence the curiosity: Who does Mr. Trump want to be his No. 2?

I am an admittedly well-intentioned but disastrous matchmaker, but I got one right when in May 2016 I recommended the then-Indiana governor, Mike Pence, as a solid running mate to Mr. Trump. As governor, Mr. Pence had cut taxes and regulations, expanded charter schools and school choice, went to Japan to seek investments in Indiana and created an innovative workaround of Obamacare through the Healthy Indiana Plan. As a congressman representing Indiana, Mr. Pence had worked in Washington for 12 years, but never became Washington. I thought he could only help us bust through Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall” in the upper Midwest and the Rust Belt and allay misgivings among evangelicals and constitutional conservatives trying to make sense of a Manhattan billionaire real estate legend and television star as the standard-bearer for a pro-life, limited-government movement.

Now, as the predictable auditions and adulations by the “pick me!” V.P. suitors begin, the list of possibilities has ballooned. Talk has turned to whether Mr. Trump should choose an insider or an outsider, a man or a woman, a legislator or an executive. Yet I think the most important vice-presidential selection question for Mr. Trump is less “who?” than “why?” In other words, the individual should complement, not complicate, his America First record and vision, and recognize the difference between loyalty-as-tenacity (yes) and loyalty-as-obsequiousness (no).

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Politics is the art of addition, not subtraction — let alone distraction. A qualified running mate who attracts rather than alienates core constituencies, is ready to lead on Day 1, and who can find his or her way in front of a TV camera without becoming the headline is preferred.

Mr. Trump’s V.P. should help him win and help him govern. With a crisis on the border, economic dissatisfaction, fears about crime, a parents’ rights renaissance and multiple wars and threats across the globe, Mr. Trump’s deputy must be able to navigate chaos and challenges at home and abroad. Potential options include Mr. Trump’s former secretary of state and C.I.A. director Mike Pompeo, with whom Mr. Trump worked very well; Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who serves on the Armed Services Committee; and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. Each man would seamlessly execute Mr. Trump’s America First foreign policy of no new wars and peace through strength and convey a “ready on Day 1” assurance in what is an increasingly dangerous, fraught and uncertain world. A lack of gravitas and a paucity of confidence in her competence has led President Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, to become among the least popular in history.

Mr. Trump also needs a No. 2 who can mitigate the damage and turn the tables on one of the few tools left in the Democrats’ arsenal — abortion. Democrats are not winning on the economy, crime, the border or foreign policy, but they have leveraged fear and lies about total opposition to abortion and a national abortion ban — and unforced errors by pro-lifers in state initiatives — to keep the heart of abortion beating strongly.

A credible, courageous, fluent running mate able to articulate what it means to be a pro-life Republican and a pro-choice Democrat in 2024, and to do it with compassion, narrows the list of possibilities. Mr. Rubio, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and the 39-year-old senator J.D. Vance of Ohio are among those who have shown how to navigate and explain the issue, exposing the extremes of late-term and fetal pain abortion while speaking with compassion and conviction on behalf of the unborn. A few female governors have taken action on abortion that solidifies them as pro-life leaders, though Mr. Trump has suggested that six-week bans are “too harsh.”

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The most popular suggestion I’m hearing is that Mr. Trump do as Mr. Biden did four years earlier and “pick a woman” as his running mate. But Mr. Biden — and the country — suffer daily the consequences of embracing identity politics. Ms. Harris has hemorrhaged senior staff members and been largely sidelined on important issues. As someone who has seen the work and pressures inside the White House, I don’t think she takes her job seriously, and a strong majority of voters don’t think she’s doing a good job. She has not appreciably helped Mr. Biden govern and is viewed by many as an overall political liability in 2024. (Or perhaps Mr. Biden was brilliant, choosing one of only a handful of people in the country who could not upstage him.)

The “pick a woman” theory also runs counter to the fact that politics is not about biology, or even chemistry, but about math and science. Indeed, Mr. Trump beat Mrs. Clinton in 2016, snatching from her the all but certain title “first female president of the United States” while a majority of voters were women. While some Republicans worry about a gender gap in November and understandably think a female vice president could help attract more women voters, I don’t disagree, but also see it differently for two reasons: Mr. Biden has his own problem with male voters, and a woman is more likely to vote for someone who shares her values and vision than her gender. As sure as the sun rises in the east, any woman Mr. Trump chooses will be denigrated as “not enough of/not a real/not a relatable” woman.

To be sure, there are plenty of qualified, compelling women for Mr. Trump to consider. There are accomplished young, elected officials who happen to be mothers of young children, like Senator Katie Britt of Alabama (age 42), Representative Elise Stefanik of New York (39) and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas (41). And experienced female elected officials/grandmothers, like Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. Each of these women would have no problem facing Vice President Harris in a debate.

The push in some quarters for Mr. Trump to pick Nikki Haley rests on the false belief that she can somehow attract moderates and independents that he can’t. But the same moderate Republicans who left Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida over his decision to sign the Heartbeat Protection Act into law, the same coalition Ms. Haley is now relying on to stay in the race for another month, may be surprised to learn that she recently affirmed that she, too, would have signed a six-week heartbeat bill into law as governor of South Carolina. Nor has Mr. DeSantis shown he could attract voters Mr. Trump couldn’t: The governor’s spectacular fall from 2022-23, failure to win a single county in Iowa’s 99, and difficulty connecting with voters leaves one wondering what he would add to a Trump ticket.

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Taking all of this into consideration, if I were advising Mr. Trump, I would suggest he choose a person of color as his running mate, depending on vetting of all possibilities and satisfaction of procedural issues like dual residency in Florida. Not for identity politics a la the Democrats, but as an equal helping to lead an America First movement that includes more union workers, independents, first-time voters, veterans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and African Americans.

Mr. Biden is seeing losses in core constituencies of the tenuous coalition he scaffolded together in 2020 as Mr. Trump clocks impressive numbers among African American and especially Hispanic voters — particularly men — in many head-to-head polls against Mr. Biden. As with women voters in 2016, Mr. Trump need not win a majority of minority voters to be elected president so much as eat into Mr. Biden’s margins. Any list would include Mr. Rubio, Mr. Scott, Representative Byron Donalds of Florida (a TV firebrand) and perhaps Representative Wesley Hunt of Texas. Dr. Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon and Trump cabinet member, is currently a Trumpworld insider favorite. Vivek Ramaswamy, the energetic businessman filled with policy prescriptions who suspended his campaign to endorse Mr. Trump, is a favorite among some in Mr. Trump’s ear and on social media.

But this is Donald Trump. He will keep us all guessing. He could pick one of the above or none of the above. His short list will be long, and dynamic. One thing he doesn’t need to do is rush this decision. He has said the V.P. pick “won’t have any impact at all” on the election and so far, his hold on the rank-and-file electorate and his capacity to grow his vote underscore that. Yet it does matter in helping to chart the course of history beginning with his chances in November, then fixing the chaos and crisis left behind from Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, and eventually passing the baton to a future leader of the movement and center-right coalition he founded nine years ago.

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