Medved: Could Trump Really Pick DeSantis for VP?

Mar 14, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 6:04 pm

trump desantis...

FILE - President Donald Trump shakes hands with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he arrives at Tyndall Air Force Base to view damage from Hurricane Michael, and attend a political rally, May 8, 2019, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Could Trump and DeSantis become running mates rather than rivals, uniting the Republican Party and leading the way to sweeping victory in 2024?

The idea has obvious appeal, with the Associated Press reporting on thousands of “fake, automated Twitter accounts” that pour out lavish praise on the former President while “aggressively suggesting” that the Florida governor would make an ideal choice as his candidate for vice president.

Though reports suggest that these busy bots have been generated by sophisticated AI programs, the idea of a Trump-DeSantis ticket also makes some sense to actual human beings. National polls show the two GOP leaders jointly dominating the race for the nomination, attracting the combined support of more than 70% of self-identified Republicans.

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If Trump offered the second spot on the ticket to DeSantis, and he accepted, it’s likely that lesser rivals – Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, and so on – would likely pull out of the race. The nasty primary battle that most pundits predict would be over before it even begins. This would spare the Grand Old Party a long season of intra-party squabbles and the squandering of billions of dollars that otherwise could be saved for beating Democrats.

Despite the good sense behind this scenario, it almost surely won’t happen for three powerful reasons –

1-     Trump won’t make the offer

2-     DeSantis won’t take the offer

3-     And the Constitution clearly discourages the very idea.

  1. TRUMP’S DISCOMFORT. One of the obvious and undeniable aspects of the Maga Man’s powerful personality is a perpetual, unequivocal need to be the center of attention. Until the very end of his administration, when Trumpian true believers rallied January 6, the soft-spoken Mike Pence never once upstaged his boss. Ron DeSantis, on the other hand, would be a threat to steal the spotlight from the chief from the very moment their prospective partnership commenced. That’s especially true because on the two most controversial aspects of Trump’s worldview – his belief that he actually won the 2020 election and his insistence on cutting back U.S. aid to Ukraine—DeSantis appears to express a dissenting, if somewhat muddled, perspective. If Trump-DeSantis won the White House, the president would be Constitutionally prohibited from making another run for the top job and would inevitably suspect Vice President DeSantis of maneuvering for his own benefit rather than sacrificing everything for team Trump.
  2. A BAD FIT FOR DeSANTIS AND HIS AMBITIONS. If the GOP ticket went down to defeat, the vice-presidential nominee (whoever it happens to be) would be tainted forever by association with a political polarizer and loser. It’s even likely that Trump would find a way to blame his running mate for the disaster; however, it comes about. And if the ticket prevailed, they’d get only a single term that’s sure to be turbulent: with Trump’s CPAC promise to inflict “retribution” on all his enemies, it’s hard to imagine that he’d leave behind that “Morning in America” glow that allowed Vice President George H. W. Bush to triumph in 1988 as Ronald Reagan’s logical successor.

Another factor that would push DeSantis away from the vice presidency is the great likelihood that he would hate the job. Even the governor’s most strident critics recognize his indefatigable energy: he’s an activist executive who would feel trapped and bored in a famously frustrating, largely do-nothing job. You don’t have to be Kamala Harris to feel diminished and paralyzed in the nation’s least respected prominent post. DeSantis would almost certainly prefer raising more hell in Tallahassee in the two years left in his gubernatorial term to attending the funerals of foreign dignitaries or biding his time in the Naval Observatory and waiting for Trump to depart or die.

  1. CONSTITUTIONAL TROUBLE FOR A “TWO FLORIDIANS TICKET”. The Twelfth Amendment, adopted in 1804 to clarify the functioning of the Electoral College, declares: “The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves…”

So what happens if both top candidates are, indisputably, “inhabitants” of the self-same Sunshine State? Constitutional scholars agree that the text means that any such ticket can’t legally capture any electoral votes from the state in which they both reside, so the two Floridians would automatically forfeit the 30 electoral votes of the nation’s third most populous state—an appalling handicap for any Republican seeking the presidency.

The only time in political history that this issue actually arose came in 2000, when George W. Bush (who lived in Austin) selected Dick Cheney (who lived in Dallas) as his running mate, risking the loss of the Texas electors who were desperately needed in one of the closest elections ever. Fortunately, Karl Rove and the other Bush managers understood the problem: just days before the announcement of Cheney as the Vice-Presidential choice, the prospective candidate traveled to Wyoming to officially change his voter registration. He also placed his Dallas home on the market to clearly mark the end of his status as a Texas inhabitant, listing his Wyoming vacation home as his new primary residence. Some Democrats may have looked askance at these maneuvers, but no one attempted a legal challenge, suggesting that either DeSantis or Trump could, if necessary, perpetrate similar shifts. But would they?

For DeSantis, with two years left in his term as governor, shifting his official residence to some other state would look dubious, embarrassing, and perhaps illegal – possibly requiring his resignation from a job that he loves. As for Trump, he’s always been known as a New Yorker and only recently claimed the status of Floridian, so it’s hardly unthinkable that Trump Tower once again becomes his official base of operations. But the prospect of the proud Master of Mar-a-Lago giving up one of the grandest residences in the country to enable Governor DeSantis to take a secondary place on the ticket hardly seems commensurate with Trump’s enduring sense of his own ducal grandiosity. Sending a message that he needs DeSantis so desperately as a running mate that he’s willing, very publicly, to move his personal place of residence hardly seems like a plausible Trumpian maneuver. As for the possibility of trying to contest in court the definitive meaning of the Twelfth Amendment, any such proceeding raises an unfortunate reminder that the former president already has more than enough legal proceedings to distract him from his political priorities.

Conventional wisdom suggests that if Trump wins the nomination, he will likely seek a female running mate – Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, perhaps, or defeated gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake of Arizona, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, or Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, or other eligible females.

Yes, the selection of DeSantis for the 2024 ticket would be exciting and unifying, but the problems and drawbacks surrounding the choice make it unlikely or outright impossible, whatever the mischievous Twitter bots may say.

Listen to Michael Medved weekday afternoons from 12 – 3 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3).

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Medved: Could Trump Really Pick DeSantis for VP?