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Why J.D. Vance Is Trump’s Ideal Running Mate

J.D. Vance understands better than anyone both why Trump succeeded in his first term and how to make him succeed in a second.

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President Trump’s vice-presidential search is in the home stretch. Trump must pick a running mate prior to the Republican convention in mid-July, but he has ample incentive to pick one sooner. The sooner he makes his pick, the sooner that individual can prepare for a vice-presidential debate, which could be held as soon as July.

Still, Trump has kept people guessing, as he likes to do. More than a dozen names are popping up on shortlists. Maybe all of them are under consideration. Maybe all of them are feints. With Trump, you never know.

But the days of wild speculation are past, and the time for serious decision-making is here. After weighing the pros and cons of each possible selection, I realize the best choice has been obvious all along: Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio.

As a military veteran who grew up in a dysfunctional family in the exurbs of Cincinnati, Vance speaks to (and for) the “Forgotten Man,” the working class, and the middle Americans of the Rust Belt who carried Trump to his shocking victory in 2016. He’s a proven winner who defeated a tough Republican field and then a formidable Democrat opponent in what turned out to be a tougher-than-expected 2022 midterm.

But Vance isn’t just a populist totem. He’s incredibly smart. He may have the single best brain in the entire U.S. Congress for grasping what must be done to complete the Trump realignment on the border, on foreign policy, and on draining the swamp. He opposed the Ukraine war fever from day one (just like Trump), he’s warned of America’s dismal military readiness, and he has detailed plans for curtailing the federal agencies that have squandered the public’s trust during the Biden years. Vance is the senator that D.C. insiders write fearful articles about, as Politico did in March. Vance appeals to the smart, engaged young men who are swerving in Trump’s direction in greater and greater numbers. He would make mincemeat of Kamala Harris in the vice-presidential debate.

Unlike many Trump-inspired politicians, Vance isn’t simply a discount Trump, trying to do the same thing but worse. He won’t try to outshine Trump (and fail) or act outlandishly to try and copy him (and look ridiculous instead). Vance has his own style, more restrained and more serious, yet equally rock-solid on the issues.

The single best message Trump has in 2024 is a straightforward one. This is the first election in 130 years where both men have been president before. Compare their records. Who did it better? Democrats want this to be an election of distractions: criminal trials, media sensationalism, and “Christian nationalism” fearmongering. Trump should not take their bait. This election is about who was a better president, and J.D. Vance understands better than anyone both why Trump succeeded in his first term and how to make him succeed in a second.

That second part is essential. Several candidates have credible claims they’ll help Donald Trump win in November, but Vance has that and would be an excellent help to Trump for the next four years. Unlike Mike Pence before him, Vance is in full ideological alignment with Trump. Trump can delegate to Vance and his office without worrying his campaign promises will be ignored or betrayed. Of course, nobody is “owed” the job of vice president just for being a dutiful soldier, but after the experience of the 2020 election, it’s clear Trump should have a second-in-command whose commitment to his political movement is beyond question.

Vance brings other bonuses. He is the VP contender with the closest ties to the state that right now seems to have the best odds of deciding the election. Unless Nebraska changes to a winner-take-all electoral vote system, Trump will have to win one of the three Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to reclaim the presidency. Surprisingly, of those three states, Pennsylvania has been polling the most favorably for Trump recently. The rural voters of Pennsylvania are much like the rural voters of Ohio who elected Vance. If Vance can help turn out even another 10,000 of them for Trump, that could make the difference between victory and defeat.

Also, while Ohio itself won’t be close this cycle, a key race there will be: Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign for reelection. A second Trump administration will be vastly stronger with a Republican-controlled Senate. It will mean speedy confirmation of appointees, a free hand on judges, and at least a hope of passing actual legislation enabling a border wall and more. Knock out Brown, and a GOP Senate hold is assured. And one of the best ways to take out Brown is to have his fellow Ohioan on the ballot with Trump.

Vance also lacks the downsides that come with other candidates. Since he doesn’t share a home in Florida with Trump, there’s no awkwardness around one of the candidates having to change their home address to avoid running afoul of the 12th Amendment. Since Ohio has a Republican governor, there’s no issue with a Democrat choosing his replacement in Washington.

And that’s Vance in a nutshell: He’s the complete package. Swing-state cred. Political chops. Good on the campaign trail. Good on the issues. Smart as a whip. No fatal flaws. He’s the companion Donald Trump needs to win in November.


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