All the VP Ladies

All the VP Ladies

Did any of Trump’s would-be, feminine lieutenants get the breakout moment they were searching for at CPAC?

Per the Greek myth, Paris of Troy was forced to choose which goddess is worthy of possessing a golden apple inscribed “To the fairest one.” Aphrodite won the contest when she promised to make Helen of Sparta Paris’s wife; thus began the Trojan War.

Replace Olympian goddesses with the GOP’s leading ladies and Paris for former President Donald Trump, and one gets a feel for the contest at the center of CPAC over the weekend.

South Dakota’s Gov. Kristi Noem, New York’s Rep. Elise Stefanik, former Arizonan Senate candidate Kari Lake, and Hawaii’s former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sang plentiful and mellifluous praises for the former president in their pitch to become Trump’s vice presidential candidate. Vivek Ramaswamy did the same. Nikki Haley was not invited.

Who Trump chooses as his number two is basically all that’s left to talk about before the 2020 rematch begins in earnest. Trump, notwithstanding death or imprisonment (maybe), will be the GOP nominee come November. CPAC attendees were polled not on Trump or Haley, but on whom they think Trump should pick as VP.

Whereas Aphrodite offered Paris Helen, Athena offered Paris wisdom, and Hera offered Paris dominion over all Eurasia, each of CPAC’s leading ladies made nearly identical pitches full of canned lines about “the death of our republic,” “the fight between good and evil,” and “the constant threats to our democracy as we know it,” which didn’t get the folks in the half-empty ballroom on their feet.

Gabbard, the first of the four to speak, wasn’t there only to make her VP pitch. Copious advertisements for her new book, For Love of Country: Why I Left the Democratic Party, adorned the venue. The former Democratic congresswoman emphasized her personal relationship with Trump.

“They say [Trump] will be the dictator-in-chief, that if he’s elected it will be the last election this country sees,” she declared. “This is so crazy, it’s laughable. They’re justifying their actions by telling themselves that they need to destroy our democracy in order to save it.”

Gabbard’s best moments, however, were when she spoke to the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic political elite, which she saw from the inside before flipping parties in 2022. The implicit message being her knowledge of the enemy could make her a valuable asset to the former and potentially future president.

Although some MAGA voters remain suspicious of Gabbard due to her past voting record, Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, told The American Conservative, “I like the idea of Tulsi Gabbard. I know she used to be a Democrat, and she has a bad voting history. But, you know, politicians adjust, right?”

He continued, “She’s been coming the right way on several key issues, including the transgender issue. She’s been going on offense against Democrats on that for a few years now.”

Elise Stefanik is said to be on Trump’s VP short list. She made her alliance with Trump clear at CPAC, declaring that her district in upstate New York, which had previously voted blue, was now “Trump and Elise country.” Ben Jacobs at New York Magazine was quick to note, “She could be somewhat stilted, speaking MAGA fluently but with a slight accent. It is not her native language.”

Nevertheless, Stefanik had a considerable crowd around her as she milled about with conference attendees. A few young men chanted “Elise VP” as they surrounded the representative from New York.

Noem opened her speech with an anecdote of how she was sworn in on the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. Noem said it’s important for young American girls to have a role model who looks like them, and suggested they look no further. At the same time, Noem repeatedly suggested she’d rather be wrangling cattle on her ranch than wrangling votes. 

Noem’s most direct hint that Trump ought to choose her as VP? Make America South Dakota. “Take a look at South Dakota and all that we have accomplished and vote for President Trump,” she said.

Admittedly, Kari Lake took a more interesting course: “We’re tired of the beta men, and we got a number one alpha man in Donald J. Trump.” Of the CPAC ladies, Lake had the largest gaggle of followers along the conference’s media row.

In the end, however, it felt like some were more interested in replacing Melania than Mike Pence.

Trump’s CPAC address, however, had nothing to do with the VP hopefuls at all. As TAC’s Bradley Devlin put it, “It’s helpful to think about every Trump speech and every campaign rally on the trail like a rock concert. People come to hear the hits and sing along with the band. The band knows as much, but brings different arrangements and riffs to make it original.” Trump knows this about himself. “Nobody can ramble like this. They wouldn’t even try,” the former president told CPAC.

Trump will eventually make his choice. In the meantime, however, the CPAC VP strawpoll ended up being a tie between Kristi Noem and Vivek Ramaswamy with 15 percent. Gabbard came in at 9 percent, Stefanik at 8, and Lake at 6.

The post All the VP Ladies appeared first on The American Conservative.

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