Trump hints veep choice has been made – one name appears to be an early scratch

Former President Donald Trump’s “veepstakes” may already be decided as the GOP leader hinted at when voters may see his pick and one contender counted herself out.

As the GOP leader went from frontrunner to presumptive nominee, a key question about a potential second administration remained unanswered with the Republican National Convention little more than three weeks out. Saturday, before a rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Trump informed NBC News that the unnamed running mate will “most likely” be present at Thursday’s debate with President Joe Biden.

“They’ll be there. I think we have a lot of people coming,” he explained while maintaining that “nobody knows” who he is going to pick but, “in my mind, yeah,” the choice had already been made.

NBC News maintained that the likely shortlist had been narrowed to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Sen. JD Vance while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem appeared to rule herself out of contention Sunday during an interview with “Meet the Press.”

When the issue was raised by guest moderator Peter Alexander, the executive, who’d suffered a public relations fiasco after including an anecdote about shooting her own dog in her book released in May, noted that had not been formally vetted for the position.

“I haven’t received any paperwork. No, I haven’t,” she explained. “I’ve had conversations with the president, and I know that he is the only one who will be making the decisions on who will be his vice president.”

(Video: NBC News)

“The only person who knows who the vice president is going to be is Donald Trump,” she had insisted and, when questioned on her earlier position that a female running mate would best serve the candidate in swing states, Noem expressed, “He needs to pick the best person for the job…pick someone that will help him win.”

According to Trump senior adviser Brian Hughes, the top criteria under consideration in making the vice presidential pick was selecting a “strong leader who will make a great President for eight years after his next four year term concludes.”

Like Noem, who didn’t walk away without being questioned about her dog story once more and whether it had nixed her from contention — “I would say that was a story from 20 years ago about me protecting my children from a vicious animal” — Burgum had said during an appearance on CNN Sunday, “President Trump can win this race regardless of who is vice president. He’s got the luxury of not having to pick someone.”

As to the actual timing of the announcement of his running mate, Trump remained coy with NBC News and suggested the announcement, “Maybe a little before, but could be at the convention. But we’ll have some great people.”

Held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this year, the RNC is scheduled to begin July 15 and end July 18.

Kevin Haggerty

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