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Top contenders for Trump's running mate audition on CPAC main stage

Trump confirmed this week that his shortlist for the GOP vice presidential nomination includes Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Published: February 23, 2024 11:00pm

Most of the top contenders for former President Trump's 2024 running mate are auditioning for the position and trying to distinguish themselves with keynote speeches at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. 

Trump confirmed this week that his shortlist for the GOP vice presidential nomination includes Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Donalds zeroed in on President Biden during his time on-stage at the conference ballroom on Thursday. "Decide, Joe Biden: Which country matters more to you? The border of the United States, or the border of Ukraine?” he said in keeping with Trump's "America First" campaign theme.

"You either secure the border or you get no money for the government," he added, referring to the upcoming fight in Congress over the next spending bill. He also argued that Biden has violated the Espionage Act as a senator and a vice president.

“He should be prosecuted for violating the Espionage Act,” he said.

Noem focused heavily on the border crisis during her speech, describing the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border as a “war zone." She told the audience that Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, are failing.

“Joe Biden is not fit to be president and Kamala is no back up plan," she said.

Referring to Trump, Noem said the country needs "someone who doesn’t give up, who has never quit on us so don’t you quit on him."

Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and later left the party in 2022, said Democrats are using the courts to go after Trump and interfere in the election. She specifically named the New York real estate case, which resulted in charging him a $355 million fine plus interest.

Gabbard said there was "no victim or complaint" and that "all parties made money so egregious that even people who are not fans of Donald Trump are standing up and saying, 'this is crazy,' and criticizing this judge’s decision that from the very beginning, has been a very clearly politically-motivated hit job."

She told the audience that Trump's critics are hoping to charge him with "any crime" ahead of the November election.

"They’re hoping and doing all that they can, that they can convict Donald Trump of some crime, any crime, to try to undermine his support and therefore prevent what they fear most, a second Trump presidency," she said. "And there’s a reason why they’re so afraid of him. Because he poses a threat to this establishment, where they draw their power from.”

House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elisa Stefanik predicted in her speech that Democrats would use legal tactics to "steal the election" from Trump.

"The closer President Trump gets to victory, the dirtier the Democrats, their stenographers in the media, and the corrupt prosecutors will get,” Stefanik said. “They will stop at nothing, and I mean nothing in their attempt to steal this next election. We saw Democrats basically impeach President Trump twice. They indicted him four times for non crimes and are trying to bankrupt him and destroy his successful business."

Stefanik also said Democrats are trying to remove Trump's name from the ballot in certain states because Biden's approval rating is in "free fall." 

According to a new Gallup poll, Biden's approval rating has dropped to 38%.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur former 2024 GOP presidential candidate, is scheduled to hold a keynote address at the Ronald Reagan dinner on Friday evening.

DeSantis did not participate in CPAC this year. Trump's final opponent, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, also did not speak. Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, is campaigning ahead of Saturday's presidential primary in the state.

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