With less than a month to go before the Republican National Convention (RNC) that will make Donald Trump's nomination for president official, sources close to the billionaire candidate told Newsmax Wednesday that his top choice, at the moment, as his vice presidential running mate is Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Requesting anonymity, the sources told us that Trump feels personally comfortable with swashbuckling conservative Sessions, 69, who was the first member of the Senate to endorse his candidacy and who frequently speaks with him.
The square Sessions seems to fit many square holes for Trump: he's conservative and nails down the party's right flank, he endorsed Trump early and has been extremely loyal, he has Washington legislative experience — a key requirement — and importantly, he can be totally trusted never to criticize Trump no matter what he might say in the coming months.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Sessions has already had a "strong impact." His immigration legislation has already been the cornerstone of Trump's Mexico and deportation policies. Sessions played a key role in creating Trump's surprise list of a dozen Supreme Court appointees he would consider. The list pleased conservatives and was particularly responsible for Trump naming Judge William Pryor (who succeeded Sessions as state attorney general of Alabama) as a top choice, a source said.
Moreover, judged the fifth-most-conservative U.S. senator by the "National Journal," and with lifetime ratings of 96 percent from the American Conservative Union and 80 percent from the Heritage Action Fund, insiders say by picking Sessions Trump will be able to stake positions more in the center and even to the left of Hillary Clinton.
"The selection will reassure conservatives," said Franklin & Marshall College Professor G. Terry Madonna. "Sessions is one of the more conservative senators — that should be reassuring to economic conservatives and the religious right."
Among issues where Sessions has been a leader on the right have been as a hard-line opponent of illegal immigration, Obamacare, and abortion. He was a leading proponent of tax cuts under the George W. Bush administration and helped lead the fight against repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" rule regarding gays in the military.
Sessions did support the Iraq War, which Trump now denounces Clinton for backing. But he also never disagrees with Trump in public, which "the Donald" is said to appreciate.
"Jeff is solid," former Sen. Jon Kyl, R.-Ariz., who worked closely with Sessions on the Senate Judiciary Committee for many years, told Newsmax Wednesday as rumors of his possible selection mounted.
Kyl also told us that "Sen. Sessions is well grounded in all of the major areas and would be prepared to step in should there be a need."
He was referring to another reason Sessions backers close to Trump feel the senator is now leading for the No. 2 spot: the long-standing Republican Party tradition of an "outsider-insider" national ticket.
Going back to 1868, when retired general and first-time candidate Ulysses Grant was nominated for president and tapped House Speaker Schuyler Colfax for vice president, the GOP has had a history of almost always running a seasoned political "pro" for vice president when the nominee for the top job is a political outsider or non-office-holder.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was matched with known anti-communist Sen. Richard Nixon in 1952 and, more recently, "anti-Washington" nominees Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush turned to "insiders" George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, respectively, as running mates.
In Sessions, Trump — who has never held elected office before — would have a running mate who has been active in politics since he was in the Young Republicans at Huntingdon College in Alabama back when the GOP in the South was in the proverbial telephone booth.
Tapped by President Reagan to be U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in 1981, University of Alabama Law School graduate and U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Sessions developed a reputation as "the Southern Giuliani" for his successful prosecution record.
When Reagan appointed Sessions to the U.S. District Court in 1986, civil rights and liberal groups mobilized charged he had made insensitive comments about the civil rights movement — comments, Sessions insisted, were made "in jest" and which he was apologized for.
But supporters could never muster the one additional vote they needed in the Senate Judiciary Committee to break a 9-9 tie and report the Sessions nomination to the Senate. The nomination was withdrawn.
Sessions went on to be elected state attorney general in 1994 and, two years later, was easily elected to the Senate seat relinquished by the political actor pivotal to thwarting his nomination to the bench: Democrat Howell Heflin, who after saying he would support Sessions on the Judiciary Committee, ended up voting "no."
One unique part of a Trump-Sessions team-up that Democrats are sure to bring up is that, with Trump recently turning 70 and Sessions turning 70 in December, theirs would be the oldest national ticket of a major party in history. However, Trump is said not to care about this and it would seem that a Democratic nominee who is 69 would not try to make this an issue.
Plus, reports suggests the Trump will not name his vice president early, but wants to save it for the convention as a major touch point in his political coronation.
While friends of Trump acknowledge that sessions is the current front runner they also admit that it's not concrete until it's announced. Other candidates that make the shortlist or Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Gen. Mike Flynn, former director of the defense intelligence agency, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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