Donald Trump hasn’t won the Republican presidential nomination quite yet, but competition is already heating up for the number two spot on his ticket.
Allies and even some former rivals of the ex-president have started making regular appearances on the campaign trail, rallying support, pledging their loyalty and – seemingly – offering Mr Trump their auditions for vice-president.
Mr Trump himself has kept fairly quiet about his preferred candidate, saying on Fox News on Saturday there was “no rush” on his selection. “It won’t have any impact at all,” he said.
“The person that I think I like is a very good person, pretty standard. I think people won’t be that surprised, but I would say there’s probably a 25% chance it would be that person,” Mr Trump said.
While Mr Trump leaves us in the dark, here’s a look at the possible Republicans who may be on the shortlist.
Near the top of the pack of the vice-presidential hopefuls is New York Representative Elise Stefanik.
Once a moderate, Trump-hesitant Republican, Ms Stefanik, 39, has drifted closer to the right wing of her party in recent years, growing into one of Mr Trump’s most loyal defenders.
Now the highest-ranking woman among House Republicans, Ms Stefanik has also risen to modest conservative fame – first for her work on Mr Trump’s first impeachment defence team in 2020 and, more recently, for her viral take-down of two Ivy League college presidents.
“Elise became very famous,” Mr Trump told supporters last week of her contentious questioning of the college leaders. “Wasn’t it beautiful?”
Ms Stefanik certainly seems open to it, telling reports last weekend she would be “honoured” to serve in the Trump administration “in any capacity”.
Tim Scott, an erstwhile competitor for the Republican nomination, is a senator and one of the most prominent black Republicans in the US.
He pitched himself as an optimistic conservative but his campaign failed to gain traction with voters. In November, after three lacklustre debate performances, he made a surprise exit from the race.
Mr Scott, 58, seemed to throw his hat in the vice-president (VP) ring this past weekend with his endorsement of Mr Trump – giving the cold shoulder to his fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley, the woman who appointed him to the Senate in the first place.
But it was Mr Scott’s rousing remarks at a Trump campaign rally on Friday that pushed his name firmly into the VP conversation. “We need Donald Trump,” Mr Scott told voters.
He then appeared on stage with Mr Trump during his New Hampshire victory speech on Tuesday evening, standing directly behind him in the television shot. At one point, he said to Mr Trump: “I just love you.” The former president responded: “That’s why you’re a great politician.”
JD Vance, 39, the junior senator from Ohio, was also in New Hampshire this past weekend, rallying support on behalf of Mr Trump.
A former venture capitalist, the Yale-educated Mr Vance first made headlines for his best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir that followed his working class upbringing in the rust-belt Midwest.
Mr Vance, once a self-identified “never-Trumper”, refashioned himself as a loyal disciple of Mr Trump when he launched his 2022 Senate bid. It paid off: Mr Trump’s endorsement of Mr Vance gave his campaign a critical boost in both the crowded Republican primary and the general election.
Now in office, he has championed the hard-right issues that animate Mr Trump’s base.
Mr Vance told reporters last week that he thought he could be better use to Mr Trump serving in the Senate for a second term. But doesn’t seem to have ruled out a term as vice-president. “I want to help him however I can,” he said.
Kari Lake, a former TV anchor, gained a loyal following of Republican voters during her 2022 bid for Arizona governor, thanks to her camera-ready charisma and a devotion to Mr Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud in the 2020 election.
Ms Lake, 54, lost her election – a defeat she has refused to acknowledge – as well as a series of legal battles seeking to overturn the results of the Arizona race.
Late last year, Ms Lake announced would launch another campaign, this time for the US Senate.
She has remained one of Mr Trump’s most energetic allies, making appearances for his campaign in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
So far, Ms Lake has said she plans to focus on her Senate run, but vowed she would “crawl over broken glass” to vote for Mr Trump and his eventual running mate – whoever that might be.
An alumnus of the Trump administration, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, 41, served as White House press secretary for almost two years. She has been a reliable defender of the former president, praising his record and endorsing his current bid in November last year.
“The time has come to return to the normal policies of the Trump era which created a safer, stronger, and more prosperous America,” Ms Sanders said at the time.
But while Ms Sanders appears to have maintained a friendly relationship with her former boss, so far she has hinted she is not interested in returning to the White House with him.
“Look, I absolutely love the job I have,” she told CBS News last week. “I think it’s one of the best jobs I could ever ask for, and I am honoured to serve as governor, and I hope I get to do it for the next seven years.”
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