It seemed like 2008 all over again.
Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and a, so far, not-so-effective surrogate for Donald Trump, floated the idea of being the presumptive nominee’s vice presidential pick during a CNN interview on Sunday.
“I think I’m pretty much as vetted as anyone in the country could be vetted already,” Palin, the infamous former running mate of John McCain said when asked if she’d give it another go this election cycle.
After pumping her fist and humbly suggesting that there were other candidates out there who were well-suited for the job, Palin demurred and said “I want to help and not hurt.”
“I am such a realist that I realize there are a whole lot of people out there who would say, ‘Anybody but Palin.’ I wouldn’t want to be a burden on the ticket, and I realize in many, many eyes, I would be that burden,” Palin said acutely aware of the baggage her name carries.
Her suggestion, likely striking fear into the hearts of any casual establishment Trump supporters and delight among political observers, comes less than a week after a majority of Trump’s short list ran for the hills.
Governor Nikki Haley? Busy running South Carolina.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman? No time. Running for re-election.
Governor Susana Martinez? New Mexico needs her more.
Sen. Marco Rubio? Pass.
Still, for as long as Donald Trump has been the presumptive Republican nominee—all of six days—the chatter about his vice presidential pick has been incessant. The rumor mill has enveloped everyone from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who has expressed interest despite being north of 70 and rounding out the two-man ticket to a six-wives one, to Trump’s former primary opponent, and recent dropout, John Kasich.
The fuel for the speculation is obvious; Trump is a wild card who has defied political logic and made the Republican party his own playground for the last 10 months. But some of his allies don’t want to swing from the monkey bars.
Rick Scott, the cone-headed governor of Florida, cut off the idea at the pass before even being asked. “I’m going to pass,” he told Erin Burnett on CNN this week.
Similarly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has said he has a “hard time believing” he’ll be able to translate his position as Trump hostage to vice president.
Everyone from Ben Carson to Maine Governor Paul LePage (whose chances at selection were as good as this reporter’s) have opted out, leaving a resilient few waiting on the bench for their time to shine.
But Palin was only the latest figure in the Trump orbit, who seems to have little to chance, to offer herself up for the figurehead position. Former gubernatorial candidate and current collector of reporters’ addresses Carl Paladino was hankering for the job as far back as October.
And on Sunday, former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who shares Trump’s fondness for immigration crackdowns, also leapt at the opportunity to join the ticket.
“Of course I would be!” Brewer said mere minutes after Palin spoke on CNN. “I would be willing to serve in any capacity that I could be of help with Donald on. But that’s a tremendous list of people to choose from,” she said referring to a list of candidates presented on a newsroom monitor.
“They’re all very wonderful people, well-qualified. I certainly think that Newt [Gingrich], I’ve known him for a long time, we all have experienced what he can get done in Washington, D.C. And Marco Rubio would be terrific. Mary Fallin would be terrific.”
An advisor for Rubio (the artist formerly known as “Little Marco”) categorically denied that he would accept the position. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, however, said she’d be happy to consider the spot. Trump in turn seemed interested in the prospect of bringing on a fellow immigration enforcer who could also maybe make some headway with female voters, a bloc that looks poised to reject Trump outright.
But there’s been no indication from Trump and his campaign that they will go outside the box on this important choice.
If anything, the reality television star has indicated that he wants someone with experience; someone to help continue rebuilding bridges Trump has burned with the Washington establishment he scorns.
“Somebody that can walk into the Senate and who’s been friendly with these guys for 25 years, and people for 25 years and can get things done,” is the way the straw-haired mogul described his ideal candidate to The Washington Post in April.
This one line—if it is to be taken at its word—chopped many of Trump’s closest political allies out of contention including former presidential candidate Ben Carson, who privately lobbied for the plum spot in March.
After volunteering himself as early as February, at which point Carson was still in the race, the former neurosurgeon changed his tune. Now he’s reportedly going to be on a committee to help Trump make the decision, which according to Carson could include potential Democrats, but according to Trump will only include Republicans. A spokesman for Carson would not expound on his role in the process to The Daily Beast.
Trump is not rife with options for people that fit the 25-year experience parameters. His friends in Washington are few and far between and as he continues to try and wrest away whatever power Speaker of the House Paul Ryan still has, Trump isn’t making it easy for people to like him.
That being said, there’s a veteran of the force who has been forthright about his Trump love: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
But he too is allegedly not touching the VP spot with a 10-foot pole.
“We’ve got enough problems,” Sessions told The Washington Examiner when asked this week. He added that Trump “needs to get somebody who can help him win this election. And that’s what I support. And I’m not sure who that is, but I’m sure it won’t be me.”
To his point, Alabama is not a state that is a major threat for Trump in the general election and it’s not like Sessions is the most lauded man in Washington. It’d be like adding a side of mashed potatoes to a plate of fries; more of the same.
The only other feasible person that can offer the experience Trump purports to want, while actually being in a uniquely perfect position to accept the optics risk of the job is none other than Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich has been an early and feverish Trump cheerleader, privately lobbying GOP insiders to learn to love the firebrand demagogue and singing his praises on network television.
Despite saying in April that Trump would need “psychiatric help” if he chose him, Gingrich has been more bullish on the idea recently, ready to return to the spotlight he once had for suggesting the country create a moon colony.
“Look, I have no idea what his thinking is right now,” Gingrich said in an interview with a local Atlanta television station this week. “I don’t have any interest in the sense that I’m going to go out and try to become his vice president. I would obviously have to listen carefully if he called. He’s an old friend and I think any time a potential president calls a citizen, a citizen owes them an obligation.”
A spokesman for Gingrich has not returned a request for further comment.
Trump has also made it painfully clear that running against Hillary Clinton means he’s going to relitigate the 1990s, dragging each and every skeleton out of the closet into the warm glow of the social media era.
“She’s married to a man who got impeached for lying,” Trump said of Clinton in Washington state on Saturday. “He was impeached and he had to go through a whole big process and it wasn’t easy. He was impeached for lying about what happened with a woman.”
Who better to have on your team than one of the leaders of that very impeachment?
Gingrich, then the speaker of the House, was a major force in trying to oust President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his sexual impropriety. Ironically, Gingrich himself was carrying on an affair at the time, something which he later admitted before launching his own presidential campaign in 2012. (A Trump-Gingrich ticket may seal the deal for the most marriages on a single platform in the history of presidential politics).
Even though the conversation is swirling now, and people are already dropping like flies, Trump has said that he will announce his pick at the Republican National Convention in July as part of the pizzazz-filled spectacle he promises.
Still all early signs point to one person.
“Too early to hear anything serious,” a source close to the Trump campaign told The Daily Beast.
“My early money is on Newt.”