CPAC attendees call for loyalty to Trump as veepstakes heat up

Former President Donald Trump is expected to cruise to another easy primary win in South Carolina on Saturday, further cementing his position as the prohibitive GOP presidential nominee and raising the question of who he will pick as his running mate. 

Speculation has swirled over who Mr. Trump might tap, with names ranging from members of Congress to former opponents on the campaign trail. The ex-president, however, has remained coy on who he would choose. 

Mr. Trump added to the intrigue after confirming a short list of names earlier this week that included Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Byron Donalds, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. 

“Always, the first quality has to be somebody that you think would be a good president because if something should happen you have to have somebody that’s going to be a great president,” Mr. Trump said.

Attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference agreed with the former president, but of all the qualities a vice presidential pick should have, they by and large demanded only one: loyalty. 

“You need loyalty to the president and loyalty to the president’s agenda, absolutely,” said Marya Pickering, 77. “And the capability to take over if, God forbid, anything should happen. You don’t want someone who’s a pretty face or who checks the [diversity, equity and inclusion] box.”

Mr. DeSantis, who shuttered his presidential campaign after a dismal performance in the Iowa caucus, narrowed the field when he declined the vice presidency on Thursday and suggested that others were actively auditioning for the role. 

At CPAC, auditions of loyalty were on full display from veepstakes contenders. 

Ms. Noem touted her early endorsement of Mr. Trump. House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, called her district “Trump and Elise country.”  

Some attendees, like Marjorie Donovan, 73, wanted a vice president that could act as a sort of “yin” to Mr. Trump’s “yang,” like former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. 

“I think Vivek is too much like Trump. He’s just too much,” Ms. Donovan said. “You gotta have somebody that’s different, and I think Ben Carson brings that.” 

Suzzanna Monk, 52, said she strongly favored Ms. Noem to be vice president. Ms. Monk, who chairs the Patriot Action political action committee, says she likes the conservative governor because of her experience in an executive role.  

“She has proven herself to be able to stand up against the agenda,” Ms. Monk said. “And I want somebody who on day one has the spine.” 

Ms. Noem, who some speculated would launch a presidential bid, said the reason she did not jump into the Republican presidential primary was because it was clear that Mr. Trump was going to win. 

She lauded her work as governor and argued that the only way that Washington would change is if outsiders, like her and Mr. Trump, were brought into the fold. 

“We need to look for our leaders outside of the swamp. Nobody turns to D.C. for the solutions. Nothing meaningful gets accomplished,” Ms. Noem said. 

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