Trump begins formal vetting of possible running mates
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has begun formally vetting prospective running mates.
The New York billionaire is considering former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama among what he has described as a short list of possible running mates. Their inclusion was confirmed by people with direct knowledge of the vetting process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
Pence spokesman Marc Lotter confirmed Friday that the Republican governor will meet with Trump over the weekend, describing the meeting as consistent with other meetings Trump is having with GOP party leaders in the run-up to the national convention.
Trump begins the vetting process with less than three weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention, when he said he would publicly unveil his pick.
Gingrich and Christie, who received vetting paperwork this week, emerged as prominent Trump allies in recent months, even as the presumptive nominee faced deep and sustained skepticism from many GOP leaders. Trump’s relationship with other would-be running mates was badly strained in the bruising Republican primary season, leaving him with a small pool of willing and qualified candidates.
Trump on Thursday acknowledged Christie was under consideration.
“I’m certainly looking at him, and I always will. Whether it’s for that or something else,” Trump told conservative radio host Howie Carr. He later described Pence as “somebody we respect a lot” and has consistently described Sessions, 69, as one of his most valued allies on Capitol Hill.
Pence has strong backing among many evangelical leaders in the Republican Party, although he faces a difficult re-election battle in Indiana, due in part to his support for socially conservative policies. Pence cannot serve as Trump’s running mate and run for re-election at the same time.
Although formal vetting did not begin until this week, Trump told The Associated Press last month he’d narrowed his vice presidential list to “a very good list of five or six people.”
His vice presidential pick could be crucial to easing the concerns of Republicans who worry about his lack of political experience, as well as his temperament to be commander in chief. Tapping a political insider would also be a way for Trump to signal a willingness to work with the party establishment he has thoroughly bashed.