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Who Will Be His VP?

August 15th, 2020 by dk

Everyone this weekend will be writing about Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s Democratic running mate. I don’t enjoy crowded spaces. So let’s speculate about who might be the VP pick in 2020 — for the Republicans.

Wait, what? Yes, I know Mike Pence has been a suitable assistant for President Trump. “Straight out of central casting,” in the President’s own words. Pence has done everything asked of him without complaining. He never asks for any share of the limelight. He’s done nothing to earn Trump’s disapproval.

Consider the stage set for Trump to unexpectedly tell Pence, “You’re fired!” — precisely because it’s unexpected. Have you never watched an episode of “The Apprentice?” (Me neither.) Millions wouldn’t have tuned in every week to watch the probable happen. Surprise heightens engagement.

Political campaigns merged with entertainment tropes a long time ago. It wasn’t surprising when Republicans nominated a TV star as its presidential candidate the first time, or the second. Reagan had also been California’s governor, so he knew how to play another role. Trump’s background is less varied. Since Denmark rebuffed his offer to buy Greenland, he’s had only one role that fits him — mercurial mogul.

Trump put Pence in charge of battling the spread of the coronavirus, so the effort’s inevitable failure could be pinned on him. Trump has since stepped on that storyline, because he couldn’t bear watching anyone on television who wasn’t him talking about anything that isn’t him.

Any screenwriter will tell you that the plot of the story barely matters, so long as the characters are well defined. Believability follows fidelity to what the audience knows the characters might do in any particular circumstance, regardless of its unlikelihood. What will a rogue leader do with/to a sycophant accessory? You already know. The next season will be teased before August ends.

But who? The early money was on Nikki Haley, because central casting is always at the forefront of executive producer Trump’s ratings-driven mind. She looks like “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but without the difficult, hyphenated name. Trump may have moved on from his former ambassador to the United Nations. She has an immigrant family story too similar to Harris’s. “Me too” is not in Trump’s playbook.

Instead, Trump’s attention has turned to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. She has been a successful legislator and governor and Trump imagines she might repay any debt she feels for the honor by adding a fifth face to Mt. Rushmore. She has shown a certain simpatico by scandalously hiring her daughter and son-in-law for South Dakota’s statehouse.

Or Trump could boost the ratings for the next season of this reality TV show by really thinking outside the 16×9 box. Somebody may convince Trump that polling is too dismal for his show to be renewed, no matter what running mate he chooses. He still has one more trick up his sleeve.

He may decide to quit the job before he’s fired, giving Pence the unlikely aura of an incumbent. But only if Pence agrees to campaign this fall with Ivanka Trump as his running mate.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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