The Official Trump VP Tier List
Ranking the most plausible of the erstwhile President's potential running mates.
Right now, there isn’t much suspense surrounding the 2024 campaign. We know who the Democratic nominee is going to be—assuming no unexpected health scare, it’s going to be President Biden. We also know who the Republican nominee is going to be—also assuming no unexpected health scare or early conviction, it’s going to be former President Trump. We also know who the President is going to pick for his running mate: his logo already says Biden-Harris. And we know all of this historically early. As I calculated in an earlier article, we arguably haven’t had a race this set, this quickly, since the establishment of democracy in this country.
But amid this plodding certainty, we still have one last X-factor. That is the question of who Donald Trump will pick as his running mate (one he hopefully doesn’t want dead this time) once he nigh-but-inevitably receives the GOP nomination next year. This is still very much up in the air, and it hasn’t received much coverage in the mainstream media. This isn’t because it’s not an important question. It very much is. It’s also not because we don’t have any information on the topic—both the former President and his advisors have given clues as to where his mindset is. The only reason this question has not received much more than passing attention is because the media is still fully committed to the charade of a competitive GOP primary.
To them, it’s a lot easier to fill time by talking about the machinations of Tim Scott and Chris Christie as though they mattered than to concede to the remarkably static reality. Because of this, they pretend that the race is still in an early, undetermined state, where the running mate question is still a long way off. Well, it’s not. Of course, this isn’t to say that the Republican primary isn’t worth any coverage whatsoever—if you know where to look, there’s actually quite a lot you can learn about modern conservatism from the ongoing fights at the kiddie table. But it won’t tell you all that much about the election itself, which is why coverage of the race needs to move forward.
Even if we may not know the ultimate decision for quite a long time, we do know that it will be a monumental one. At minimum, it will define the nature of Trump’s overall effort next year. At most, it could define the future of the GOP as a party. So, of the most plausible picks, which could serve to help Trump the most? Which could hinder him, and why? And what would each portend for the future of the Republican Party?
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)
Hopefully this sets the tone of this list properly. As befitting the Republican party as a whole under his rulership, Trump’s current shortlist of running mates is unimaginably weak. Picking which of them stand as the absolute worst has been one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make for this newsletter. There are just so many choices here, and they’re all just so bad in so many ways. But I could only choose one of them for the very bottom, so I decided to just go for the obvious answer.
Everyone knows the headlines, and I’ll get to those eventually. But to truly understand what a Trump/Greene ticket would represent, you first need to understand the different ways American voters perceive far-right extremist politicians. For certain kinds of figures, extremism and constant controversy can work to their benefit. While everyone expects them to fail, voters look at them and, for one reason or another, see a brave truth-teller and independent outsider instead of an unacceptably dangerous radical. These are the kinds of far-right politicians who can win. The fact that Trump managed to get a lot of people to see him this way is the reason he won in 2016, and the fact that he shed this reputation over the course of his actual presidency is a large reason why he lost in 2020.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is a different kind of far-right politician. She comes across to people as insane. There’s no fixing that and there’s no way around that (because it is actually the case). This puts her in a position substantially weaker than her fellow far-rightists. While they all back unpopular platforms, she’s unique in being publicly associated with concepts like “Jewish Space Lasers.” No swing voter anywhere in the country is ever going to look at her and see an independent moderate, like they did with Trump. She will always be seen as an extremist, a divider, a moron—everything wrong with politics today.
But while this perception stands to do the most to define her at the national level, it’s also worth looking specifically at her policies. With Trump’s success, people have generally become conditioned to not expect the extremism of Republican platforms to impact much, but even by his standards, she’s really something else. Of course, there’s the election denial, the climate denial, the anti-vaxxism, the virulent homophobia and transphobia, the insane gun fetishization—the works. But she also holds a grab-bag of insane right-wing views from times long past. She’s denied evolution. She’s declared her support for secession. She’s even virulently anti-Catholic, which actually comes from a surprisingly well-founded basis (she was raised Catholic, but switched to evangelicalism in 2011 following the revelation of widespread sexual abuse in the church). That context could have helped her neutralize the problem, but it’s likely that she lost that chance last year when she said the church was controlled by Satan and destroying America because of their work to help immigrants.
There’s no “but” here. Greene doesn’t represent anything even remotely politically potent. She’s one of the weakest politicians in the country, and her numbers at the ballot box show it. All you have to do is look at her results in her district last year. In 2022, Georgia’s elections had an unusually wide range of outcomes, with results spanning from bona fide Republican blowouts to solid Democratic wins. But across all of the candidates the Republicans ran in the state, there was nobody who performed more poorly than Marjorie Taylor Greene. She didn’t just underperform Raffensperger or Kemp. She didn’t just underperform Trump’s numbers in 2020, either. She underperformed even Herschel Walker himself, carrying her district by a smaller margin than even he did, despite being a well-funded incumbent. You can make a serious case that her mere presence on the ballot held Walker’s numbers down enough in the general election to make him look like a lost cause in the runoff. As calculated by Split Ticket, she did a full 10 points worse than you would have expected from just a totally generic Republican.
You can make a strong empirical case off of this alone that Greene is the most toxic politician in the United States. Some may point to her insane stances as providing a limited upside in motivating the crank vote, but her recent actions in Congress might preclude even that. Despite being far gone from any mainstream appeal, she’s decided to align herself with House Republican leadership, leading to anger and consternation from her old fans and friends. She can’t even keep up a good relationship with Lauren Boebert. This is an easy call. If Trump decides to pick her as his running mate, he’d be writing his suicide note.
Vivek Ramaswamy (R-OH)
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