Jan 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's VP contenders audition in New Hampshire

Rep. Elise Stefanik speaks behind a microphone with a big Trump sign, and Donald Trump in the background.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) joins former President Trump at a rally in Concord, N.H., on Friday. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

KINGSTON, N.H. — New Hampshire's Republican primary isn't just Donald Trump vs. Nikki Haley. The run-up to Tuesday's vote has felt like an audition to be Trump's vice presidential pick, as contenders have been popping up around the state to stump for the former president.

Why it matters: As Trump mostly sticks to big rallies, his surrogates at smaller events are playing an increasingly large role in tightening his grip on the GOP — while promoting themselves and showing what Trump values most: loyalty.

Driving the news: This weekend, three lawmakers on Trump's VP short list — Sens, J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), along with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — didn't just tout Trump to New Hampshire voters, they emphasized their own relationships to him.

  • "If you're undecided, throw up your hand. I want to try to persuade you," Vance told a crowd of about 120 at Saddle Up Saloon here in Kingston, a politically divided community in southeastern New Hampshire.
  • "I was not a Trump guy in 2015 and every time I talk to [Trump], he reminds me of that," Vance said.

Scott — a former candidate for the GOP nomination who emphasized civility — flew with Trump to New Hampshire from Palm Beach, Fla., on Friday before giving an impassioned endorsement speech — even as Trump escalated his race-based attacks on Haley.

  • Even when he was still running for president, Scott frequently told voters that he and Trump had accomplished much together — especially the 2017 tax cuts that created tax incentives for investment in underserved communities.

Stefanik introduced Trump at a rally in Concord, N.H. on Friday, stopped by a diner Saturday morning to tout him, and later addressed Trump supporters at his state headquarters in Manchester.

  • Stefanik reminded reporters and voters that she was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump in this election cycle. She also repeatedly said that she doesn't believe E. Jean Carroll, whom a New York jury found was sexually abused by Trump in the 1990s.

Between the lines: Vance echoed Trump's pushback against the ongoing efforts in Congress to reach a bipartisan bill on border security and immigration.

  • Trump and his most loyal supporters in Congress have expressed reluctance to compromise on a border bill — a move many Democrats have interpreted as reluctance to give President Biden any more legislative wins before the election.

Catch up quick: Another former GOP presidential candidate, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, also has joined the Trump surrogate machine in New Hampshire.

The bottom line: Vance, Scott and Stefanik have all said they'd be happy to serve in a Trump administration.

Alex Thompson contributed to this report.

Go deeper