Let’s Catch Up on How Trump’s Vice Presidential Candidates Are Humiliating Themselves (2024)


From shooting a dog, to supporting a married man’s right to make secret payments to p*rnographic actresses, to shooting a goat, there’s a lot going on out there.

By Ben Mathis-Lilley

Let’s Catch Up on How Trump’s Vice Presidential Candidates Are Humiliating Themselves (1)

Donald Trump needs to pick a vice presidential candidate soon. The Republican National Convention in Milwaukee is in mid-July, and Trump’s relationship with Mike Pence, who served as his running mate the last time he ran for office, became strained when Pence refused to help carry out a coup on Trump’s behalf and came somewhat close to getting murdered by a mob as a result.

Which is to say, the job is open because the previous employee who held it was nearly killed by the person doing the hiring. Other Republicans have nonetheless been beating down Trump’s door, in some cases almost literally, for several years to increase their chances of being chosen. “Sounds great!” they say, looking at what happened to Pence and the many other Trump right-hand men and women who have ended up in jail, indicted, bankrupt, or giving interviews to anyone who will listen about how he is a fundamentally delusional and narcissistic person whose election would threaten the continued existence of the country. “Let’s do this!”

The point is that wanting to become Donald Trump’s running mate is an intrinsically debasing activity. But the individuals in contention for the role understand that they also have to earn his respect publicly through humiliating acts of exaggerated loyalty and disavowals of anything they’ve ever said previously that he might not like. Here’s some of what’s been going on in that department in recent weeks.

Contender: New York Rep. Elise Stefanik

What she’d bring to the ticket: Aggressive TV “surrogate” skills, being a woman
How she’s demeaning herself and/or civil society as a whole: Stefanik’s major liability as a potential veep is that she was a moderate Republican with a documented history of disparaging Trump both in public and in private before she chose, in roughly 2018, to adopt a MAGA identity. Asked about this history by Fox News’ Shannon Bream on Sunday, she said the line of questioning was a “disgrace” based on “smears,” claimed the New York Times’ reporting about her disparagement of Trump relied on anonymous sources (in fact, several former friends of hers spoke to the paper on the record), and implied that the Democratic Party released the Access Hollywood tape (which appears unlikely). Stefanik has also begun presenting herself as a crusader against antisemitism despite having run campaign advertisem*nts in 2021 whose claims about immigration appeared to be influenced by the “great replacement” and “white genocide” theories popular among neo-Nazis. She moreover supported the congressional candidacy of Carl Paladino, a New York state extremist who said in 2021 that Hitler was “the kind of leader we need today.” (Not true, in our opinion.) In other words, an Elise Stefanik vice presidential run is likely to lean heavily on the claim that it is inappropriate to bring up many (most?) of the things Elise Stefanik has done or said during her career.

Contender: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

What she’d bring to the ticket: Rural blue-collar authenticity, female-hood
How she’s demeaning herself and/or civil society as a whole: Ha ha, how much time do you have? Noem seems to have been aiming to sell herself as a mama bear/Sarah Palin type with the May 7 publication of a memoir called No Going Back, but overshot the mark, if you will, by proudly including stories about having executed a misbehaving dog, and also a misbehaving goat, in a gravel pit. (Don’t laugh! Goat delinquency is a big problem in the Badlands.) Then people noticed her book described her having personally stared down Kim Jong-un—mama bear stuff—despite there being no evidence that Noem and Kim have ever met. She responded by saying the claim would be removed from future printings of the book, but also by telling interviewers that she didn’t think it was appropriate to discuss her conversations with world leaders (despite being on a publicity tour for a book in which she describes conversations with world leaders). Long story short, Kristi Noem is probably not going to be the GOP vice presidential nominee, and No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong With Politics and How We Move America Forward is probably not going to win the 2024 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Contender: Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance

What he’d bring to the ticket: Credibility with “New Right” populist conservatives
How he’s demeaning himself and/or civil society as a whole: As Slate has written, Vance is an upwardly mobile tech investor with a high-achieving lawyer wife who lives in a liberal, diverse urban neighborhood … and ran for office as an enemy of the tech industry who is repulsed and appalled by white-collar cosmopolitan norms regarding diversity and women in the workplace. Which is to say that he’s a man who’s comfortable with some cognitive dissonance. That’s been useful given that Vance, too, publicly described Donald Trump as a dangerous creep—an “idiot” and a “moral disaster,” in fact—until it became necessary for his personal career advancement to be a Trump supporter. (You may notice something of a theme developing here.) Last week, the senator—whose book Hillbilly Elegy decried what he described as an epidemic of divorce and personal irresponsibility—attended Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan in order to express his support for the former president, whose position in the case is that while he did make a nondisclosure payment to a p*rnographic actress with whom he (allegedly) had sex shortly after his third wife had given birth, it wasn’t illegal per se to do so. Vance’s views about fidelity and accountability, it would appear, have evolved somewhat.

Contender: Former newscaster and losing Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake

What she’d bring to the ticket: Fire, flair, conspiracy theories
How she’s demeaned herself and/or civil society as a whole: Lake was perhaps the earliest entrant in the veep striver game, traveling so frequently to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that People magazine reported, in what seemed to be a pointed leak, that she had logged more time there than Trump’s wife Melania. (Lest you think I’m reading between the lines a little too much here, take a look at Lake’s statement in the piece, which strains to note that her “overnights” in Palm Beach took place in the company of “her loving husband of 25 years.”) Lake ended up running for Senate in Arizona instead of holding out for the veep slot … but according to a late-April report in the Washington Post, she’s still spending so much time at Mar-a-Lago that Trump himself has “gently suggested” that she should “leave the club and hit the campaign trail in Arizona.” And if Donald Trump thinks you are spending too much time near a golf course instead of working, it is probably true.





Contender: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

What he’d bring to the ticket: Unclear
How he’s demeaning himself and/or American civil society as a whole: Rubio arrived on the national scene in 2010 as a next-generation Republican who supported a so-called path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. When he ran in the 2016 presidential primary, he argued to voters that Trump was not trustworthy enough to be given control of nuclear weapons and implied that he (Trump) has a small penis. In 2020, even, Rubio voted to certify the results of the presidential election despite various right-wing claims about voter fraud. This weekend on Meet the Press, though, Rubio said he now supports Trump’s plan to mass-deport more than 10 million undocumented immigrants and believes that Democrats committed fraud in 2020. Sadly, it does not appear that any Sunday-morning host has confronted him yet about what we hope the Beltway press will start referring to as “the penis factor.”

Contender: Florida Rep. Byron Donalds

What he’d bring to the ticket: MAGA/Freedom Caucus energy
How he’s demeaning himself and/or American civil society as a whole: Donalds didn’t become a member of Congress until 2020, and his past criticisms of Trump are limited to some stuff he wrote on social media in the early 2010s. So there’s not a lot to disavow, although he did attract some ridicule when he appeared at the hush money trial dressed exactly like Trump (blue jacket, white shirt, red tie) alongside several other surrogates who were also dressed exactly like Trump.

Contender: Doug Burgum

What he’d bring to the ticket: Who?
How he’s demeaning himself and/or civil society as a whole: There’s no way there is a guy named Doug Burgum who is going to be vice president. Get out of here with that.

Contender: South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott




What he’d bring to the ticket: Evangelical cred, sunny disposition
How he’s demeaning himself and/or civil society as a whole: Tim Scott’s whole thing was supposed to be that he’s a cheerful, optimistic believer in God and American ideals, which made it funny to see him determine after dropping out of the presidential race earlier this year that he needed to enthusiastically endorse Trump, who makes only the barest pretense of knowing anything whatsoever about God and the Bible, and who generally describes the country as a carnage-strewn crap-scape that is on the verge of total collapse. Anyway, after years of speculation that national voters would find it weird, if not outright gay, that he had never been married, the 58-year-old Scott announced in March that he will be wed this August to a South Carolina interior designer named Mindy Noce.

So, have any of these contenders rearranged their lives, abandoned their convictions, attested to enough dog shootings, and deflected enough questions about Hitler to earn the worst job in American politics? For some reason, they can’t wait to find out!

  • Donald Trump
  • Elections
  • Republicans
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  • Marco Rubio
  • 2024 Campaign


Let’s Catch Up on How Trump’s Vice Presidential Candidates Are Humiliating Themselves (2024)
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