- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Donald Trump is road-testing potential running mates this week, and the tryouts already have resulted in at least one name cut from the short list.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, whose foreign policy chops made him a top contender, withdrew himself from consideration Wednesday after sharing a stage the night before with Mr. Trump, the likely GOP presidential nominee, at a rally in the swing state of North Carolina.

Next up: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich, an old hand at Washington deal-making who is advising the Trump campaign, stumped Wednesday night with Mr. Trump in Ohio, which typically is a must-win state for Republicans.

Mr. Trump told the crowd that even if Mr. Gingrich isn’t his vice president, he’d be “involved with our government.”

“He’s smart. He’s tough. He gets it. And he says I’m the biggest thing he’s seen in the history of politics,” Mr. Trump said with a smile. “He’ll be involved if I can get approval from his wife. That might be tough.”

The selection of a running mate is always a big deal, but Mr. Trump is under added pressure to make a perfect pick, proving that he can execute a thoughtful command decision and dispel worries that he would be reckless in the Oval Office.

He is expected to make the announcement within a week, before the July 18 opening of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The list includes about 10 people — U.S. senators, governors and two generals — and the names are not necessarily the same ones bandied about in the media, Mr. Trump said.

“Some names that haven’t surfaced yet, who have actually called me,” the billionaire businessman said on Fox News. “A lot of people are calling me that you wouldn’t even think about. They want to have their name thrown into the hat, and we’re going to look at some people.”

Mr. Trump didn’t name names. But one military man believed to be under consideration is retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who has been advising Mr. Trump and whose brash style is considered a good fit with the outspoken real estate tycoon.

Mr. Flynn reportedly was forced out of the military by the Obama administration in 2014 after warning about the rise of global jihadist threats and deteriorating U.S. readiness — themes echoed by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump previously has said that he’s looking for someone who knows how to work with Congress.

“Really, we’re looking to go more the political route in terms of getting legislation passed, which is what they do, and I think, frankly, we don’t want to do the executive orders like Obama’s been doing,” he said. “[I’ve] really been thinking more in terms of the politicians, but we’re looking at two generals.”

Other possible veeps include Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama was the first Washington lawmaker to endorse Mr. Trump and has proven himself to be a loyal ally, a quality highly regarded by Mr. Trump and which likely puts him on the short list.

But Mr. Sessions is relatively unknown on the national stage.

Mr. Cotton, who brings youth and military experience to the campaign, also is relatively unknown outside Arkansas and has been in the Senate less than two years.

Mr. Trump met Saturday with Mr. Pence and Monday with Mrs. Ernst. But Mrs. Ernst said she was happy with her current job in the Senate and all but withdrew her name from consideration.

“I made that very clear to him that I’m focused on Iowa. I feel that I have a lot more to do in the United States Senate. And Iowa is where my heart is,” she told Politico. “I’m just getting started here.”

Indeed, the biggest drawback to picking Mrs. Ernst is her lack of national political experience. She has been in the Senate less than two years.

“I will probably participate more as an advocate,” she said of her role in the Trump campaign. “I would love to assist him out on the trail.”

Mrs. Ernst would offer several benefits to the ticket. She has military experience as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard; she could help Mr. Trump reach out to women voters, a demographic with which he needs to improve his standing; and she is from a battleground state.

In the interview, Mrs. Ernst said she is a “Mike Pence fan” in the veepstakes.

Mr. Trump’s family also has been pulling for Mr. Pence, who served in the House for 12 years and was a popular member of the GOP leadership. But Mr. Pence lost support among social conservative who say he caved to gay-rights activists by agreeing to water down Indiana’s religious freedom law.

Mr. Christie, who ran for the GOP nomination, has been friends with Mr. Trump for years and has been a strong supporter since ending his run in February.

He’s good on the stump and a proven campaign attack dog. But Mr. Christie is still under the cloud of the George Washington Bridge scandal, in which two Christie staffers were indicted last year for allegedly closing lanes on the bridge as a political payback to a Democratic mayor.

Mr. Trump also could play a wild card, such as tapping former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who brings a heaping serving of likeability to the ticket and potentially could help attract minority voters.

Trump is in the business of surprising people. Don’t put it past him. He likes doing those sort of things,” said a Republican campaign strategist.


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