GOP VP hopefuls in Congress burnish their credentials while currying favor with Trump

By Stermy 10 Min Read

For congressional leaders, weekly press conferences are a time to outline a policy agenda, communicate a message and drive a contrast with the opposition party.

For House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, a vice presidential hopeful, they’re also an opportunity to get in front of a TV camera and shower praise on Donald Trump.

“America is rallying in support of President Trump to save America and fire Joe Biden,” Stefanik, R-N.Y., told reporters in her opening remarks at a recent press conference, congratulating him for winning a primary contest before pivoting to legislative business.

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Stefanik has also used her perch on the House’s education committee to tap into the conservative zeitgeist by confronting college presidents during televised hearings, fueling several resignations amid campus protests over Israel and Gaza.

Related: Donald Trump’s youngest son ‘Barron Trump’ to play role at Republican convention

And she isn’t alone. Other vice presidential prospects like Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., are also using the opportunities afforded to them in Congress to burnish their credentials to appeal to Trump. That includes using their vote cards, committee seats, procedural tools and — perhaps most importantly — their ability to get on TV to speak to an audience of one.

“He understands the devil’s in the details. So he puts his brilliant daughter-in-law in charge of our RNC apparatus,” Scott said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show after Trump installed Lara Trump as new co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

“At the end of the day, you want the ball in the hands of the best player on the field. That player is Donald Trump,” he added in what came across as a thinly veiled VP audition tape.

For decades, Capitol Hill has been a powerful launching pad for vice presidential nominees. In the last two decades, five out of the seven chosen were sitting members of Congress.

A sixth, Mike Pence, was a former member turned Indiana governor. Going back to 1992, 10 of 11 running mates had experience serving in Congress (the exception was Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor, in 2008).

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick in 2016, said the nature of the GOP jockeying on Capitol Hill is “different” than it was in the past.

Related: Trump disapproves of Greene’s Speaker ousting attempt, saying it’s not the right time

“Normally, being too bold about your ambition is probably not a good thing. But Donald Trump’s not the normal guy. So I think the jockeying is very unusual, but it’s kind of in character with what people understand about Trump,” Kaine said in an interview. “The way to impress him is not by being a dutiful soldier who just keeps your head down and works. The way to impress him is to really flatter him and suck up to him.”

Greene, the far-right congresswoman who has indicated interest in being VP, has sought to curry favor with Trump by engaging in a weekslong push to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., accusing him of betraying the GOP and the MAGA movement. Her push failed Wednesday as a vast majority of Republicans and Democrats voted to shoot down her motion. Trump largely steered clear of the melee, offering words of support to both sides.

“I absolutely love Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Trump said on social media after the vote closed, while adding that it was “not the time” for her motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. Continue Reading Full Story, Clicking Next page.

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