Here’s a pro tip: When the pundits start speculating about someone’s VP pick, it’s a safe bet they think that person is going to win the nomination.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Donald Trump veepstakes is under way.
It’s a bit silly, of course, as even its practitioners admit. But unless Trump gets derailed, the chatter is only going to grow louder, to the point where you will be utterly sick of it.
It’s an interesting mental exercise for this reason: There’s never been a presidential contender like Trump, so it’s not like some governor or senator making a classic ticket-balancing choice.
What the speculators seem to be missing is that Trump has addressed this a couple of times and said that since he’s an outsider, he plans to pick someone from inside politics.
“I would absolutely not need another business person,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“I would want someone with political skill…you know, dealing with Congress, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” Trump added that the person would have to make a “great president” if anything happened to him—a key point, since he turns 70 before Election Day.
The last thing Trump needs is a distracting controversy over whether his running mate is qualified to be a heartbeat away.
Since some voters might have qualms about Trump never having held elective office, it would make sense to tap someone with at least some Washington experience. That, in a very different context, is what George W. Bush did in picking Dick Cheney, and what freshman senator Barack Obama did in choosing Joe Biden.
What Trump can’t do—oops, here I am, playing the game—is pick someone who conflicts with his brand. No one who screams establishment. Someone with a touch of the maverick. And by the way, Trump doesn’t need a running mate to be an attack dog—can you think of anyone with a greater bark and bite than The Donald?
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza admits that “vice presidential picks are very, very difficult to handicap. It is an intensely personal decision that is extremely tightly held….The way you (or, more accurately, I) think about who a presidential nominee might pick as a vice president tends to depend on the oldest and crustiest of conventional wisdom. You pick someone from a swing state you need to win. Or you pick someone whose experience or skill set complements your own.”
The Fix columnist starts his list with Nikki Haley. Except that she criticized Trump in her State of the Union response and then endorsed Marco Rubio.
Rick Scott? Yes, the Florida governor comes from the ultimate swing state. But he’s a former businessman, not a natural politician, and not nationally known—he’d have to be “sold” to the country.
Sarah Palin? Come on. Did you watch Trump feeling slightly upstaged during her long endorsement speech? Think how much fun Tina Fey and Darrell Hammond had with that. Plus, she’s been there, done that.
Carly Fiorina? Do you remember what Trump said about her face? And no experience in elective office.
Carl Icahn? Jack Welch? Two businessmen. Plus, they’re both 80. Get real.
Politico’s Roger Simon is doing his own list-making. Some of his picks seem tongue-in-cheek. Joe Scarborough? Roger Goodell? Oprah—Obama-loving Oprah?
Simon winds up giving Palin the nod: “Why? Because she makes Trump sound like a genius.”
My own view is that John Kasich both helps him in Ohio and has experience as a congressman. And the governor notably hasn’t attacked Trump much. Of course, Kasich has said he’d make a terrible vice president, but they all say that.
Trump’s campaign is so personality-driven that it’s hard to imagine him even having a running mate. But the Constitution requires one—and also, apparently, requires us to start speculating in February.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.