Here’s Why Elise Stefanik Will Be Trump’s Veep Pick

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

In Fox News’ latest Donald Trump presidential town hall, host Laura Ingraham rattled off a list of potential candidates on the ex-president’s “short list” for potential running mates.

She gave him the following names for consideration: Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Byron Donalds, Kristi Noem, and Tulsi Gabbard. Trump responded: “They are.”

But there was one name conspicuously missing from Ingraham’s list: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

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Trump loves people to speculate about his running mate for a lot of reasons. You only have to look at how much he loves endorsing candidates for every office in the country, while inaccurately bragging about his supposedly successful scorecard in the actual elections. He revels in the idea that he is the sole Republican kingmaker, so everyone believes they must go through him to get elected. That keeps the money rolling in to his PACs—and the dinners and events they pay for at Mar-a-Lago, where candidates and their supporters kiss the ring, giving him the money and influence he craves.

The speculation on a wide variety of potential candidates also keeps those vying for the spot to continue to serve as his campaign surrogates. We have seen each of the candidates listed by Ingraham travel to upcoming primary states on their own dime to stump for Trump. It is unlikely they would make as many appearances and do as many TV segments specifically for Trump if they didn’t think they had a chance to be his running mate.

To accurately predict who it will be, you have to understand Trump personally, as well as the strategy of his campaign. Trump demands to be the star in the room, he plays second fiddle to nobody. If there is any doubt that this is what Trump is looking for in a running mate, look at Mike Pence as a reference point.

Donald Trump and Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) attend a rally ahead of the New Hampshire primary election in Concord, New Hampshire on January 19, 2024

Donald Trump and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) attend a rally ahead of the New Hampshire primary in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 19, 2024.

Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Next, look at the campaign's strategy. When you compare the numbers by demographic between the 2016 election and 2020 election, one group jumps out as the reason Trump lost—white, suburban voters.

Trump only won the white, suburban vote 51-47 in 2020, compared with 54-38 in 2016. (Most of his numbers in the other demographics remained fairly consistent between the two elections.) This is the voting block that cost Trump the election in 2020, and most of the movement away from him was among white, suburban women. This is who he needs to win back.

Vivek Ramaswamy is an obvious non-starter to help with those efforts.

For one, he was caught on a cellphone camera floating an Alex Jones conspiracy theory that the Deep State was going to assassinate Trump if he was the nominee. That angered Trump, who immediately called him out for it on Truth Social.

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That also led to Ramaswamy’s quick exit from the race, as he tried to do damage control by flying up to New Hampshire for a very public endorsement, in the form of a loud, bombastic speech that seemed to annoy Trump even more. He committed a cardinal sin against Trump—he became the star of the show and took up the oxygen in the room.

And there’s no way Trump was being truthful when he acknowledged the names on Ingraham’s list. Because it’s utterly inconceivable that Trump would ever choose Ron DeSantis after his ugly primary battle (if you can call it that) with MAGA’s big boss.

DeSantis’ criticisms of Trump down the stretch were tough and personal, even questioning his cognitive abilities and vigor. DeSantis has repeatedly said he is not interested in being anyone’s VP, and people who know him best agree that he is temperamentally ill-suited to be a #2.

Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) poses for a photo after speaking at Team Trump New Hampshire Headquarters ahead of the state's nominating contest in Manchester, New Hampshire, on January 20, 2024.

Elise Stefanik (R-NY) poses for a photo after speaking at Team Trump New Hampshire Headquarters ahead of the state’s nominating contest in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Jan. 20, 2024.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

There’s also the matter of the Florida governor immediately rejecting his name being floated after the town hall, adding that Trump was playing “identity politics” with his short list. Trump’s senior adviser Chris LaCivita responded by calling him a “sad little man” and referenced his penchant for eating chocolate pudding with his fingers. Not happening.

Tulsi Gabbard is a ridiculous name to include on the short list, coming out of the fever dreams of a corner of the MAGA social media echo chamber. The idea is that the former Democrat might help pull Democratic women voters away from Biden.

But the problem with that concept is that she has wholly abandoned any principles that connect with Democratic voters. She has become a full right-wing conspiracy theorist, a Putin apologist, and frequent guest on extremist podcasts. She is also from Hawaii—a state Trump can’t win.

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Tim Scott is a name that seems to make at least a little sense, and he’s a very popular choice among the pundit class. Certainly, the South Carolina senator is making it plain that he wants the gig—even saying this week that he is more enthusiastic campaigning for Trump than he was stumping for himself.

Scott certainly fits the Mike Pence mold as a dutiful, evangelical sycophant who will never openly defy Trump no matter what he does or says (with one notable exception in Pence’s case). But Scott has very extreme positions on social issues, particularly abortion, and the one issue that terrifies Trump most in this election is abortion. Scott is solidly on record as being against all abortion with no exceptions, and that is certainly not where Trump is on this crucial issue. Finally, Scott is from South Carolina, which Trump will win without spending any time or money, regardless of who his running mate is.

There are some polls indicating another black Republican, Rep. Byron Donalds, could help Trump make inroads with the Black, male voting demographic. But it’s probably not enough upside to justify taking a hard-right choice from Florida that will hurt him in other areas.

What Trump actually needs is a running mate who will appeal to suburban women in swing states. Donalds’ personality and voting record suggest that he is certainly not the right messenger for that. Also, Donalds is widely viewed as being a leading candidate for governor of Florida in 2026 and seems to be focused on that, which will be no easy task.

Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland on March 4, 2023.

Elise Stefanik (R-NY) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 4, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Speaking of governors, Kristi Noem of South Dakota makes some sense as a potential Trump running mate. Trump very likely wants to pick a woman this time because he understands that he continues to poll badly with them—and his misogynistic past, his party’s hardline position on abortion, and the E. Jean Carroll judgments against him haven’t helped him any.

Trump wants a candidate who can speak to suburban moms, and Noem has been campaigning in various places around the country and on cable news as a Trump surrogate.

But Noem has been out of Congress for a while and Trump will want someone with stronger D.C. connections and fundraising ability. And Trump will win South Dakota easily without her.

That leaves one candidate—notably not on Laura Ingraham’s “short list”—who can speak to suburban moms, play nice with the MAGA base, and happily hang back as second fiddle to Trump. That’s Elise Stefanik.

I predicted last April that Stefanik would be Trump’s running mate. At the time it was based solely on the fact that Stefanik molded her entire congressional career on women’s issues and helping Republican women get elected by softening their messaging. Although she has taken a hard right turn since then—as she tried harder than anyone to get Trump to notice her—I am more convinced than ever that she will be the pick.

Trump’s New York roots—as well as Republican Lee Zeldin’s surprisingly close defeat in the state’s 2022 gubernatorial race—actually have him musing about the possibility that he could win his home state. He continues to talk about doing a rally in Madison Square Garden. If he adds Stefanik to the ticket, at the very least the campaign believes it will force Biden to spend money in a state where TV spots are not cheap.

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To be sure, Stefanik’s brand took a bit of a hit with her backing and defense of expelled ex-Rep. George Santos, followed by her support of Republican Mazi Pilip—who just lost the special election to succeed Santos—but Trump notably issued a statement hours after the election absolving Stefanik from any blame.

As soon as the House went into recess last week, Stefanik ran down to Mar-a-Lago to heap praise on Trump and get her marching orders to block the border bill and aid to Ukraine. In return, Trump praised her repeatedly, saying that nobody fights harder for him than Stefanik and that “she’s a killer.”

That is probably the highest compliment Trump can give to anyone, and I don’t know that he has ever said that about a female politician before. Finally, Stefanik has gone farther than any other candidate on Jan. 6 issues, calling convicted defendants “hostages,” and saying that she would not have done what Pence did and certified the 2020 election. That is music to Donald Trump’s ears.

When you consider what Trump is looking for in a running mate from a personality, loyalty, fundraising, geographic and demographic perspective, only Elise Stefanik checks every box.

Ron Filipkowski is the Editor-in-Chief of and the host of the Uncovered podcast.

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