WASHINGTON — At a candlelight dinner with Mar-a-Lago members in late December, former President Donald Trump was strolling across the desk when the dialog turned to one of many largest choices he must make if he grew to become the Republican nominee: who would he chooses to be his operating mate?
That is when Rep. Elise Stefanik, the hard-charging Republican from New York state, got here up, in keeping with somebody on the dinner desk. Attendees round Trump raved about her viral second just a few weeks earlier, when she grilled three college presidents throughout a congressional listening to on anti-Semitism on campus.
On the considered Stefanik as a doable selection for vice chairman, Trump nodded approvingly.
“She’s a assassin,” Trump stated, in keeping with the individual on the occasion.
Since then, Trump and a rising group of allies have begun to look extra carefully at Stefanik as a operating mate, in keeping with eight folks conversant in the matter, together with folks near Trump, Stefanik fundraising bundlers and former Trump administration officers.
On the time, the 39-year-old congresswoman was on the crest of a wave of nationwide publicity after taking over prime leaders at Harvard, the College of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise. Their solutions to the query: “Is looking for the genocide of the Jews a violation of the legislation? [your college’s] guidelines on bullying and harassment?” in the end resulted within the resignation of two of them, triggering a storm of criticism of the faculties.
However Stefanik was on Trump’s radar lengthy earlier than that listening to as a result of she possesses some of the necessary qualities he appears for in a 2024 operating mate: loyalty. That, mixed together with her capability to drive information on necessary points, might be an irresistible combine for a vice presidential choose.
“Stefanik is on the prime,” stated Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief White Home strategist and the architect of his 2016 marketing campaign technique.
“In case you’re Trump, you need somebody who’s loyal above all else,” stated one Republican marketing campaign employee. “Particularly as a result of he believes Mike Pence has dedicated a deadly sin.”
On Wednesday, after this story was printed, Stefanik introduced that this is able to occur campaigning with Trump in New Hampshire.
As soon as a reasonable Republican who labored on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential marketing campaign, Stefanik shifted to the best and turned himself into certainly one of Trump’s prime allies on Capitol Hill after he received the White Home in 2016.
“She’s come a great distance, and now she’s actually with us,” Trump stated at a luncheon within the spring of 2022, in keeping with a supply conversant in his feedback, including: “She was form of with us earlier than us, however she is basically with us now.”
Stefanik declined to touch upon whether or not she could be eager about being Trump’s operating mate, telling NBC Information she was targeted on her function in Congress.
“I cannot touch upon my conversations with President Trump. I’m honored to name him a pal. I am proud to be the primary member of Congress to help his reelection, and he received a landslide victory in Iowa. So we’re very enthusiastic about that,” she says.
A Trump marketing campaign spokesperson didn’t return a request for remark.
from Stefanik loyalty is overt — together with in an interview this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press” — and it stands in stark distinction to Pence, who grew to become a goal of Trump and his supporters after refusing to associate with Trump’s plan to kill Joe deny Biden’s victory within the 2020 presidential election. The previous vice chairman, in flip, usually criticized Trump and his election denial throughout his short-lived presidential run final 12 months.
Stefanik, however, has been recognized in Congress for years as one of many main crusaders defending Trump; she served on Trump’s impeachment protection workforce in 2019 and supported his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that led to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.
Within the Meet the Press interview, she didn’t rule out that she would turn out to be the previous president’s operating mate.
“Nicely, I’d clearly be honored to serve in any capability in a Trump administration,” Stefanik stated.
Stefanik additionally drew consideration to that interview when she echoed the president’s phrases, calling the Jan. 6 defendants “hostages.” On Wednesday, Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., introduced he would introduce a decision to censure Stefanik — a transfer that might make her much more widespread with Trump’s base.
It’s these expressions of allegiance — together with her refusal to endorse an “unconstitutional” presidential election in 2020 and probably 2024 — that display the New York consultant’s ability at seizing moments to advance Trump’s pursuits and to defeat his enemies, apparently giving her the lead. the competitors.
That December dinner wasn’t the primary time Trump introduced up Stefanik, each as a loyal confidante and as a doable VP candidate, in keeping with another person who has attended earlier occasions involving them each.
At an occasion for Stefanik’s joint fundraising committee on June 6, 2022 at Trump’s golf course at Briarcliff Manor, New York, a supply current heard the previous president inform attendees that he was monitoring how she would deal with him as he moved nearer to a choice on his run for president.
“What Trump has constantly commented on is how good she could be as vice chairman,” this individual defined.
Trump has lengthy talked about Stefanik’s prospects for increased workplace, telling attendees at a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser two years in the past attended by Stefanik that she might be the following president after 2024, the Conservative Social gathering chair confirmed in New York State: Gerry Kassar.
And in November, Stefanik, as chairman of the Home Republican Convention, stated: endorsed Trump as president. On the time, she was the highest-ranking congressional chief to help him within the primaries.
Stefanik’s loyalty was additionally on show as she battled the judges and prosecutors battling Trump within the courtroom.
In current months, Stefanik has gone after the president within the New York civil fraud case in opposition to Trump, referred to as on Legal professional Normal Merrick Garland to analyze the previous president’s fixer Michael Cohen, and filed a criticism in opposition to a federal choose who oversaw the grand jury for Particular Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment in opposition to Trump.
“Stefanik clearly brings unimaginable abilities at many ranges from the Home of Representatives, and he is aware of the best way to defend President Trump and the MAGA motion,” Bannon stated. “And most significantly, she is aware of the best way to play what I name the brutal second, when you must make the choice to go all in.”
“She chooses her images and he or she is aware of the place her affect lies,” Bannon continued. ‘And he or she understands one thing that’s fairly uncommon as of late, which is trendy communication. She is aware of what could make an impression. So she is clearly an enormous expertise.”
Her GOP colleagues within the Home of Representatives stated Stefanik could be an enormous asset to Trump as a result of he is aware of her effectively, trusts her and he or she would deliver a deep data of Capitol Hill.
“Very clever, very articulate, she did an ideal job chairing the convention. And if President Trump have been to decide on her as his operating mate, I believe it might be an ideal workforce,” Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., the chairman of the biggest caucus of conservatives on the Hill, stated in an interview.
“She has an unimaginable working relationship with the Home of Representatives… and in addition has nice respect within the Senate,” he added.
In New York, Stefanik is called a frequent presence not solely in her district, however throughout the state – and somebody who is simple to achieve.
“She’s somebody I truly textual content,” Kassar stated, including that, particularly in fundraising, Stefanik “goes out of her means to assist.”
For Trump, bringing in Stefanik might additionally bolster his already very sturdy fundraising operation.
Stefanik’s workforce introduced it had raised greater than $5 million in This autumn 2023. That proceeds coincided with Stefanik’s high-profile second with college presidents.
Becoming a member of Stefanik, Bannon went by means of his tackle Trump’s deep record of potential vice presidents. He talked about South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake as different potentialities.
He additionally stated to not miss Nikki Haley, who has acquired sturdy help from Wall Road and different right-wing enterprise and media corners.
“What MAGA must do is guarantee that President Trump totally considers the alternate options, as a result of he shall be beneath monumental strain from the donors to choose Nikki Haley, and from Fox,” Bannon stated. ‘They’re profiling her now. It is the Nikki Haley channel.’
Like Haley, Stefanik might be a bridge for some donors who aren’t utterly bought on Trump. However the place Trump has executed that set on fire Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a rival within the Republican main, referred to as Stefanik “unreliable and disloyal” due to her political acumen.
Stefanik’s New York roots and success in successful a district that twice voted for Barack Obama for president might be a brand new draw as Trump appears to grab Biden’s recognition whereas some voters stay in historically blue state.
‘She’s a tent builder. She is increasing the get together in some ways,” Gavin Wax, president of the New York Younger Republican Membership, stated of Stefanik.
“Haley’s identify was thrown round rather a lot as a result of they have been searching for somebody who might come on the ticket that might win over a sure demographic of the citizens that Trump was combating, however I believe something that Nikki Haley would have delivered to the desk Elise brings to the desk – with out costing votes from the bottom, or from MAGA, or from extra conservative voters,” Wax stated.
Stefanik has additionally proven himself prepared to go to the mat for Trump, stated Roger Stone, a veteran Republican strategist who has been loyal to the previous president for years. Nonetheless, Stone says there’s nonetheless a protracted technique to go.
“Elise Stefanik, in my view, must be on each shortlist,” Stone stated. ‘She has proven her braveness and management qualities. However it is usually very, very early within the course of.”
Trump just lately stated throughout a city corridor in Iowa that he already is aware of who his operating mate shall be, though a Trump marketing campaign adviser later backtracked, saying, “Nothing has been finalized but.”
Though Trump has teased a choice, those that know him finest say no public announcement is anticipated anytime quickly.
“When does the conference begin? That is once you make the selection,” Bannon stated. “It is Trump – it will be ‘The Apprentice’. It can come right down to the final episode.”