They’re happy to have been considered, and they’re excited about the Republican ticket. They just don’t want to be on it. Two Senators rumored to have made Donald Trump’s short list have publicly withdrawn from consideration. Joni Ernst, who just won election to her first term in 2014, says she wants to remain focused on the job she has and the Iowans who have it to her:
The GOP senator met with Trump on Monday and received effusive praise afterward, with Trump predicting he will “see her again.” But it likely won’t be as his running mate.
“I made that very clear to him that I’m focused on Iowa. I feel that I have a lot more to do in the United States Senate. And Iowa is where my heart is,” Ernst said Wednesday. “I’m just getting started here. I have a great partner with Chuck Grassley, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot. And I think that President Trump will need some great assistance in the United States Senate and I can provide that.”
The 46-year-old Ernst, who won the critical swing state race in 2014, said she will be offering tactical advice to Trump about how to win her home state. And she is expected to give a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention, focusing on national security, according to a source familiar with those plans.
Earlier in the day, Ernst’s Tennessee colleague Bob Corker offered a similar explanation to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa for his demurral:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has recently emerged as a finalist in the search for Donald Trump’s running mate, told The Washington Post in an interview Wednesday that he has taken himself out of consideration for the position.
Corker said that he informed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee of his decision during their day together on Tuesday, when the senator had a series of meetings with campaign officials in New York and then flew with Trump to an evening rally in North Carolina.
“There are people far more suited for being a candidate for vice president and I think I’m far more suited for other types of things,” Corker said in an extensive phone interview where he repeatedly praised Trump and said he is eager to serve as an informal adviser to the candidate.
Neither of the two candidates seemed like a great fit anyway. Corker has carved out more of a moderate path in the Senate along the lines of Lamar Alexander. Trump needs a boost either among movement conservatives or Tea Party stalwarts (which overlap, of course), and Corker would not likely appeal to either group. He wouldn’t have appeal to other demographics either, and Trump doesn’t necessarily need to play geographic strategy in the South; he just needs to avoid actively antagonizing voters in that region.
Ernst, on the other hand, would have appealed to both groups, plus offered a chance to win Iowa, which might be a critical state if Trump’s Rust Belt strategy begins to work in Pennsylvania and Michigan. As a woman, Ernst could have brought some gender balance to the ticket, although it’s questionable whether that would have produced a significant improvement in that demographic. Ernst is right, though, that she has just started out, and it’s too early to throw the dice on her as a figure on the national ticket.
Ernst knows who she’d like to see on the ticket, though:
“I will admit that I am a Mike Pence fan,” Ernst said. “He is so well rounded, served as a governor and I think he’s a great conservative. So I don’t think he could go wrong.”
Pence makes more sense than either Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie, the rumored front-runners for the job. He has a Rust Belt base, a solid record as a governor, Capitol Hill experience, and an ego that won’t get in Trump’s way. Whether Pence would want the job is another matter, but so far he’s not announcing that he doesn’t.
At least it’s better than Corker’s exit suggestion:
Sen. Bob Corker: Trump's “best running mate" would be Ivanka pic.twitter.com/Z1q4mtxWfX
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) July 6, 2016