The VP candidate that could get 'Romney Republicans' behind Trump (2024)

An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Hello, friends. I hope all had an enjoyable holiday weekend.

ICYMI: I spoke with singer Lee Greenwood, of “God Bless the USA” fame, about his new business: patriotic Bibles. It’s making some Christians wary. Read more here: The gospel according to Lee Greenwood.

3 things to know

  • President Joe Biden is ‘firmly committed’ to running, he’s said in multiple venues in recent days: at a Wisconsin rally, during an ABC interview and in a letter to Congress. That last venue — a two-page memo to House Democrats, including the five sitting members who have called on Biden to drop out — was Biden’s lengthiest explanation for staying in the race yet. He blasts prognosticators that suggest Trump is leading in the polls and declares he is “the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024.” Read more here.
  • The Republican Party platform dropped Monday, and it will get a vote at next week’s convention. (Read it in full here.) There are some notable updates: “The abortion section has been softened. There is no longer a reference to ‘traditional marriage’ as between ‘one man and one woman.’ And there is no longer an emphasis on reducing the national debt, only a brief line about ‘slashing wasteful government spending.’” Read more here.
  • Latter-day Saint voters in Arizona and Nevada could decide the election. The problem? They are overwhelmingly dissatisfied by both major-party candidates. I wrote last month about new survey data that explains this, and my colleague Jacob Hess adds anecdotal evidence: “Voting for the lesser of two evils,” one voter said, “is still voting for evil.” Read more here.

The Big Idea

Trump’s play for ‘Romney Republicans’

As a matter of strategy, each of Trump’s top vice presidential options have made their case: Marco Rubio could help Trump win Latinos and suburban voters. Tim Scott could identify with African Americans. J.D. Vance could deliver swing-state voters and Rust Belt populists.

And Doug Burgum could bring back Romney Republicans.

The North Dakota governor ran a short-lived presidential campaign in the mold of Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee: he pitched himself a fiscal conservative, a pragmatic businessman and a successful governor. In the months since he dropped out in December, he has become a fervent Trump ally, sidling up to the former president at his Manhattan trial and calling Biden a dictator.

Romney, for his part, said it was “a little embarrassing” that Burgum and other VP hopefuls would show up to the courthouse. But some of Romney’s longtime supporters — including those who opposed Trump during this cycle’s Republican primary — are enthusiastic about the possibility of a Trump-Burgum ticket.

Last fall, Burgum and three other Republican candidates attended a closed-door gathering of Republican donors and policy experts in Park City, Utah. The annual event — called the E2 Summit — stemmed from the web of backers behind Romney and Paul Ryan’s 2012 presidential run.

The goal for last year’s gathering? To find “an alternative to Donald Trump” as the Republican nominee, said Spencer Zwick, one of the summit’s organizers.

Nikki Haley stole the show, while Burgum received a warm, though unremarkable, response. (Zwick joined Haley’s fundraising team after the event.) One attendee told me Burgum “surprised” a number of attendees, leaving them “almost upset” they hadn’t heard from him earlier in the process. Another said Burgum came across as a “nice and normal guy.”

Now, nine months later, that group of donors — once scrapping to push a non-Trump candidate atop the Republican ticket — is itching for a Vice President Burgum.

“Joe Biden has proven that he’s not mentally fit for the job,” said Zwick, who served as national finance chair and senior adviser for both of Romney’s presidential campaigns. “So if your options are Trump versus Biden, I can’t imagine very many people in that room not voting for Trump.”

Zwick added: “If you add into that Doug Burgum, who speaks to Republicans and independents, then you would just reinforce the probability and likelihood that Trump will win.”

It’s a significant shift among one of the most Trump-averse clumps of conservative donors. In September, Zwick said it’s “not in their DNA” to “accept that Donald Trump is the nominee”; now, Zwick says he — and many of the other E2 attendees — would vote for a Trump/Burgum ticket.

Not all E2 attendees agree. One told me that they would “prefer Nikki (Haley), Marco (Rubio) or someone who is younger, diverse and more moderate.” Another said “nothing stands out” from his interactions with Burgum.

Related

At Romney-led summit, Nikki Haley steals the show

But Zwick, who works with Burgum as a trustee on the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library board, says Burgum could win over many Republicans — and seems willing to help Trump do so, should Burgum be tapped as his running mate. The Burgum appeal, Zwick said, is his business leadership experience. “What resonated with a lot of our attendees is his experience at running things,” Zwick said. “He knows how big business works. He is effective as a governor. He knows how to run organizations.”

In recent months, some of the attendees at the E2 Summit have softened toward Trump. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan was part of a group of business executives that met with Trump in Washington last month. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei have downplayed the effect Trump’s reelection would have on their businesses.

However, many of Romney’s former supporters — and Romney himself — say they won’t support Trump. Romney said character is the most important issue for him when selecting a president: “When someone has been, well, determined by a jury to have committed sexual assault, that’s not someone who I want my kids and grandkids to see as president of the United States.”

Romney’s 2012 running mate, Paul Ryan, said he will write in another Republican’s name instead of voting for Trump. “Character is too important to me, and it’s a job that requires the kind of character (Trump) just doesn’t have,” Ryan said in May.

Zwick has a different view. “I have no idea if Trump’s going to pick (Burgum) or not,” he said. “But if he does, Doug would be a tremendous help to the ticket.”

What I’m reading

If Trump picks J.D. Vance as his VP, it may signal a permanent shift toward isolationist foreign policy — the like that could signal a Russian victory in Ukraine and rethinking the U.S.’ relationship with NATO. At present, Vance is the Vegas betting favorite to be Trump’s running mate, and the Trump-style isolationists are cheering. “Selecting J.D. would be a signal to the neocons in D.C. that era of endless war is coming to an end,” said Charlie Kirk, head of Turning Point USA. “And you can’t backdoor me through the vice president anymore, because he has the same worldview as Trump.” How J.D. Vance Rocketed Onto Trump’s VP Shortlist (Molly Ball, the Wall Street Journal)

The possibility of a second Trump term is making Europe rethink its defense strategy, including doing “something that’s been unthinkable for most of NATO’s existence: develop a security architecture that’s not so dependent on the United States, including for nuclear deterrence.” Europe is Quietly Debating a Nuclear Future Without the US (Politico Magazine)

Biden has made a career off trying, failing, and trying again, his biographer writes: “In most ways, this tendency of Biden’s has made for a resilient, healthy psyche. Right now it is his psychological prison, a mental habit that might doom American democracy.” Biden Has Fallen Into a Psychological Trap (Franklin Foer, The Atlantic)

Tuesday trivia

Last Tuesday’s question: Attempts to replace Biden on the Democratic ticket could lead to a “brokered convention” — where no candidate reaches a majority vote on the first ballot. When is the last time this happened at the Democratic National Convention?

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Comments

The answer is 1952, when both Democrats and Republicans nominated candidates after brokered conventions: Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower.

This week’s question, in honor of the Republican National Convention, which kicks off Monday in Milwaukee:

In 2020, the GOP chose not to write a new platform. Instead they used what as the party platform?

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.

The VP candidate that could get 'Romney Republicans' behind Trump (2024)
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