We’ve reached the inevitable point in this election cycle where Republicans, aware of their party’s difficulties with women voters, pressure their presidential candidate to choose a female running mate. But the question this time isn’t whether or not Donald Trump will pick a woman vice president. It’s whether he'll be able to convince any Republican women to run with him on the ticket.
As a leaked memo in 2014 revealed, the Republican Party is well aware of the gender gap it faces. Women have voted for Democrats over Republicans by double-digits in the last two presidential elections, and the GOP actually had a woman on the ticket in one of those elections. The idea that nominating a female vice president again could solve this problem for Republicans in 2016 has always been fantastical, but it’s being proposed nonetheless.
Conservative author Kristin Tate said that Trump would be “very wise” to pick a woman for his running mate, because that will “help calm the media attacks.” Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis also endorsed the idea, noting that “the remarks [Trump] has made about women are not going to help him appeal to some of the 53 percent of the voting populace that are women,” while Rep. Kristi Noem said that a female vice president “would bring a lot to his ticket.”
But even if that were true, who would Trump pick? His problem is that most Republican women who’d make strong vice presidential picks have already, through one means or another, taken themselves out of the running.
Trump’s best option would undoubtedly be South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a rising Republican star who won bipartisan praise in 2015 for supporting the removal of the Confederate flag from her state’s capitol. But Haley has publicly denied interest in the VP slot. More importantly, she said it was “scary” to imagine Trump winning the nomination, and even said bluntly that “we can’t have Donald Trump as president.” So, Haley’s out.
Another name that often makes the rounds is Susana Martinez, the popular Hispanic governor of New Mexico. But she’s called Trump’s policies “horrible,” and in March, she refused to commit to supporting Trump if he won the nomination. More to the point, Martinez has said she’s not interested in being veep.
Presidential nominees sometimes give the vice presidential slot to one of their vanquished rivals, and by that logic, Carly Fiorina would make an excellent running mate for Trump. Yet Trump and Fiorina have quite a bit of bad blood between them. It began in September, when Trump implied that Fiorina was too ugly to be president. Since then, Fiorina has claimed that Trump and Hillary Clinton are “virtually indistinguishable” from one another, and that Trump “does not represent me and he does not represent my party.”
In many ways, Sarah Palin would be a perfect running pick for Trump. She’s already endorsed him, they’re very similar stylistically, and she wouldn’t be taking any political risk by joining him on the ticket, given that she doesn’t even work in politics anymore. But the memory of Palin’s disastrous performance as John McCain’s running mate in 2008 are still fresh, and that alone makes it difficult to imagine her getting the nomination.
Other women in the GOP whose names have been floated include New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn. At the very least, none of them are opposed to Trump’s candidacy. But these are very low-profile politicians with little to no experience on a national stage. They might not damage Trump, but it’s hard to see any conservatives getting too thrilled about, say, a Trump-Fallin ticket.
To be clear, there's no reason to believe a female running mate would actually help Trump in the first place if that woman supported the GOP's policies on contraception, abortion access, and health care. Trump currently has a -47 favorability rating with women, and it seems naive to think that simply having a woman on the ticket would magically convince women voters that Trump isn't actually a sexist pig. Still, even if this was a winning strategy, Trump would have a pretty hard time implementing it.