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Trump's potential VP picks

Luisa Vieira

Wildcards: Could Trump surprise us with his VP running mate?

Donald Trump has been teasing his vice presidential pick for weeks, but with the Republican National Convention kicking off next week, he’s likely to make it official — and soon.

Right now, the front-runners appear to be Sens. Marco Rubio and JD Vance, along with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. But what about the contenders who aren’t grabbing headlines yet remain on Trump’s radar? Here is everything you need to know about the dark-horse candidates.

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Sen. JD Vance addresses the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2024.

CNP/ via Reuters

JD Vance: Started from the bottom, now he’s here

From holler to white collar. That’s the unusual life arc of J.D. Vance, the 39-year-old junior senator from Ohio.

Born into extreme poverty in rural southern Ohio, he grew up in the holler – “the hollow” – surrounded by abuse, addiction, and despair. But he made it out: He joined the Marines, graduated from Yale Law School, and became a successful tech venture capitalist.

He recounted all of this in his bestselling 2016 memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” which became required reading after Trump’s shock victory over Hillary Clinton spurred interest in the disaffection of white working-class America. In the book, Vance criticized a culture of victimhood and dependency among poor whites while also blasting the establishment’s condescension and neglect.

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Will Tim Scott become Trump’s No. 2?

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination last November, has been campaigning hard for Donald Trump – and he has his eye on becoming vice president. But will the GOP’s only Black senator get Trump’s VP nod?

Raised by a single mom in Charleston, South Carolina, Scott became the first Black Republican elected to any office in the Palmetto State since the 19th century when he won his 1995 Charleston city council race. In 2008, he won a seat in the statehouse and went on to the House of Representatives in 2010. After one term, then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to fill a vacant Senate seat, and he has easily won reelection three times. He is arguably the most recognizable elected Black Republican in office today.

Trump recently said Scott was a “better surrogate” than a candidate thanks to the latter’s enthusiastic efforts to whip up excitement for the former president’s campaign. If Scott detected any damnation by faint praise in the remark, he certainly didn’t let it on, saying Trump was “right” when asked about the remarks on Fox.

Eurasia Group’s Jon Lieber says Scott “has a great personal story, he’s a telegenic presence, he’s inoffensive, and he has a good reputation in the Senate that comes along with relationships and domestic policy chops.” That said, Lieber isn’t convinced Scott can help Trump consolidate support with voters who aren’t sold on the former president.

Scott recently launched a $14 million campaign to help Trump make inroads with minority voters in seven swing states, which could ease concerns like Lieber’s if successful. We’re watching how it plays out, and whether Scott’s affability helps temper Trump’s hard edge with voters.

To learn about Trump’s other possible VP picks, check out our Veepstakes series here.

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