Trump’s VP Reveal May Be This Week. Or Not.

Some aides are preparing for the possibility that Donald Trump will announce his pick for vice president on social media just before a rally scheduled for Saturday in Butler County, Pa., north of Pittsburgh.  (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)
Some aides are preparing for the possibility that Donald Trump will announce his pick for vice president on social media just before a rally scheduled for Saturday in Butler County, Pa., north of Pittsburgh. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

Donald Trump’s running-mate search, as much a theatrical production as a political one, is now in its final act.

In exactly one week, the Republican vice-presidential nominee is scheduled to address the party’s convention in Milwaukee.

The leading contenders — Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — have sat for repeated cable news interviews. They’ve attended campaign fundraisers, mingled with members of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and flown on the Trump plane. And they’ve all completed perhaps the most crucial test: addressing the devoted core of the former president’s MAGA movement onstage at a Trump rally.

Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times

Trump has orchestrated his monthslong selection process with the flair and finesse of a seasoned marionette puppeteer, relying on dramatic pronouncements to feed speculation, draw in his audience and try to redirect any lingering attention away from his 34 felony convictions.

Now, in true Trumpian fashion, the finale includes a bit of suspense.

Just one public campaign event remains on Trump’s schedule before the Republican National Convention — a rally in western Pennsylvania on Saturday. Several of the former president’s allies believe he may want to bring his running mate to the rally. Some aides are preparing for the possibility that Trump will announce his pick on social media just before the event.

Trump’s preference, however, seems to be revealing his pick in a made-for-television announcement onstage at the convention. When asked in an interview on Monday about the timing of his announcement, he spent much of his answer talking about craving such a moment.

“I’d love to do it during the convention,” Trump said on Fox News. “It would be a very interesting buildup and important for the convention.”

But the former president also acknowledged a rather significant problem with such a situation: He might be the only person in his campaign who prefers that timing.

The endless speculation has fatigued many Trump allies, who are eager for him to announce his decision. Pushing it to next week would disrupt the Trump aides who are working around the clock to iron out innumerable logistics to prepare for the four-day convention, which is expected to draw more than 50,000 Republican officials, activists, donors and members of the media.

Another example of a complication with a reveal in Milwaukee: Convention rules require the party to nominate its presidential ticket on Monday, and it would be hard to nominate a ticket that’s not yet officially announced. Republicans could vote on a rule change, but that would be just one of many changes that would ripple across the convention program.

“My people say that’s a little complicated,” Trump said during the Fox News interview, suggesting his timing for an announcement would be most likely “probably a little before the convention — but not much.”

A campaign spokesperson said that only Trump knows who he will select, and that he will announce the decision when he is ready.

On Saturday, Trump will visit Butler County, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white and largely rural area about 50 miles east of the Ohio border that has long supported Republican presidential candidates. The county is nestled in a region near the state’s western border where pro-gun, pro-coal voters — less diverse and less highly educated than the rest of the state — have mostly shed past ties to the Democratic Party and have become reliable Republican supporters.

The location would seem to be an ideal setting to introduce Vance, the former venture capitalist and bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy.” He would appear to offer more natural appeal to Trump’s white, working-class base than would Burgum, a wealthy former software executive, or Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a fluent Spanish speaker.

Another potential hint: One of the closest Ohio towns to Butler County is East Palestine, where Vance and Trump teamed up in February 2023 to criticize the Biden administration’s response to a train derailment that forced residents to evacuate and escape toxic chemicals. The White House pushed back at the time by accusing the Trump administration of having dismantled safety measures that were meant to prevent episodes like the East Palestine derailment.

Just five months earlier, when Vance was running for Senate, he joined Trump at a campaign rally only to be mocked by the former president, whose endorsement had helped deliver the party’s nomination to Vance. “JD is kissing my ass he wants my support so much,” Trump told the crowd.

But after the East Palestine event, which Trump later described to aides as an effective and energizing campaign stop, he has been more generous when speaking about Vance.

At a campaign rally in Ohio in March, Trump mentioned Vance at least a dozen times, including once to express some mix of surprise and relief that the first-term senator “has really turned out to be great.”

“When you endorse somebody you don’t know, you think they’re going to be good and they turn on you,” Trump said, adding that Vance was “a young star and he’s a great senator and a real fighter.”

Vance briefly joined Trump onstage, where he attacked President Joe Biden, praised Trump and claimed, mostly incorrectly, that “all of the net job growth under Biden’s presidency has gone to the foreign-born.”

“Let’s rebuild prosperity for America’s citizens and reelect Donald J. Trump,” Vance said to cheers.

In May, Trump invited Burgum to a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, where the former president praised the governor’s intellect and business acumen.

Burgum, a mild-mannered two-term governor, engaged the crowd in an energetic call-and-response about sending Trump back to the White House.

“OK one more time, and this one has to be so loud that they can hear it in Biden’s basement in Delaware,” Burgum said to laughter and applause.

On Tuesday, Rubio became the last of the three leading vice-presidential contenders to join Trump at a rally this year. Rubio has not campaigned for the presidential ticket as overtly as Vance or Burgum, both of whom are relative newcomers to Trump’s political orbit. Rubio, however, quietly developed a close relationship with Trump during their four years together in Washington.

Onstage at an event at Trump National Doral Golf Club near Miami on Tuesday, Rubio displayed his self-assuredness by gently ribbing the former president. He feigned ignorance about knowing the golf course’s owner and urged the crowd to plead with the former president to find an indoor venue for his next summer rally in South Florida.

Trump thanked Rubio, describing him to the crowd as “someone who has really become a friend of mine.”

“We had a vicious campaign for a while,” Trump said, referring to their caustic rivalry during the 2016 presidential primary. “He was tough, and he was smart and I got to really know him well over the years — and he’s a fantastic guy.”

He left it at that, keeping the suspense alive.

c.2024 The New York Times Company