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Why this US senator may have the inside track to be Donald Trump’s running mate

In 2008, in the pages of The Topeka Capital-Journal, I was the only political pundit anywhere to correctly — and publicly — predict both vice presidential choices: Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

According to news reports, high school student Maria Toliver of Marshall, Missouri, also got them both correct, but only told her government teacher.

I’ve never missed a VP prediction pick since. I note this because as a political analyst it is something to be proud of, but also because it is difficult to do.

How many of us had Dan Quayle as our #1 pick over George HW Bush in 1988? Joe Lieberman for Al Gore in 2000? Dick Cheney for George Bush in 2000? Even Mike Pence was a bit of a surprise in 2016.

Donald Trump will want someone who can competently perform the job of president in an emergency, and also someone who can help him win the election. With the caveat that my VP streak must end at some point, here is Trump’s current list and my evaluation of the strongest candidate to become his No. 1 pick.

No. 7: Kristi Noem. The super-conservative governor of South Dakota is a Trump loyalist (in 2020 he reportedly gave Trump a mini-bust with an image of his face as carved into Mount Rushmore). Revelations that she shot a dog and a goat for being vulgar have damaged her chances.

Number 6: Marco Rubio. The current Florida senator and 2016 presidential candidate is of Cuban descent and could therefore reach minority voters. But Florida is already a lock for Trump, which diminishes Rubio’s appeal.

Nos. 5 and 4. Doug Burgum And Ben Carson. The current governor of North Dakota and Trump’s former housing secretary are two conservative and safe choices. Both have run for president before, but neither would pose any danger of outdoing Trump, and especially Carson.

Number 3: Tucker Carlson. The former host of CNN, PBS, MSNBC (!) and Fox News is indeed on Trump’s shortlist. It has been noted that he is “widely seen as one of the ideological godfathers of Trumpian Republicanism.” Choosing Carlson would make no sense on several strategic fronts — he has no geographic base, for example — but Trump’s celebrity and “ratings-driven” politics have inflated so many norms that it makes perfect sense in this election year.

No. 2: J.D. Vance. The 39-year-old senator from Ohio has gone from a Trump skeptic to a super loyalist. He has an intriguing backstory (growing up poor, Navy veteran, Yale Law School) and would be seen as a natural complement to Trump and his base of fierce supporters.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, speaks at a town hall in Le Mars, Iowa, while campaigning for president.  Political expert Bob Beatty gives reasons why he thinks former President Donald Trump will choose Scott as his running mate.Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, speaks at a town hall in Le Mars, Iowa, while campaigning for president.  Political expert Bob Beatty gives reasons why he thinks former President Donald Trump will choose Scott as his running mate.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, speaks at a town hall in Le Mars, Iowa, while campaigning for president. Political expert Bob Beatty gives reasons why he thinks former President Donald Trump will choose Scott as his running mate.

No. 1: Tim Scott. The current U.S. Senator from South Carolina is also a former city councilman, state legislator and U.S. Congressman. He has been tested, having run for the Republican nomination for president before dropping out in November, and is a formidable fundraiser.

As I wrote in October after watching him campaign in Iowa: “Scott may be the feel-good candidate for conservative Republican voters. The U.S. Senator from South Carolina has a warm smile and a gracious Southern charm and quickly has the standing-alone audience laughing freely. As he says, “Thanks for the laugh, by the way. You make it easier when we have a good time together.’”

Trump reportedly wants to reduce Biden’s share of the black vote, and Scott — the only black Republican in the Senate — could help him reach those voters.

This article originally appeared in Topeka Capital-Journal: Why this U.S. senator could end up as Donald Trump’s running mate