There’s a new name on Donald Trump’s short list of vice presidential candidates if he winds up as the 2024 nominee: Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis).
Trump mentioned Van Drew as a possible running mate during a fundraiser for the New Jersey congressman’s re-election campaign Wednesday night in Bedminster.
The former president called a Trump-Van Drew ticket “a really good idea.”
Van Drew told the New Jersey Globe that he would not dismiss the idea of running with Trump.
“I never rule out anything, but right now I am 100% focused on Congress,” he said.
The Cape May resident spent 17 years in the New Jersey Legislature, assembling a fairly moderate-to-conservative record in a Republican part of the state, and was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2018, but switched parties in December 2019 after refusing to vote for Trump’s impeachment. He was re-elected as a Republican.
Sitting with the president in the Oval Office, Van Drew pledged his “undying support” for Trump.
“I believe that this is just a better fit for me,” Van Drew said at the time. “This is who I am.”
There’s a difference between media speculation and a potential presidential candidate publicly identifying a potential running mate, and an even greater difference between a plug and making it to a serious vetting process.
Still, the idea of Van Drew as Trump’s running mate, while unorthodox, would not be out of the ordinary for the former president.
“Trump is a far sight from picking a running mate, but it’s clear what he and his supporters would value above all else is not who can deliver electoral votes or name ID, but rather, undying loyalty,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “And one thing beyond dispute is that few, if any, have more publicly demonstrated loyalty to Trump than Van Drew.”
Obscure vice presidential picks have happened before, albeit unsuccessfully. Barry Goldwater chose Rep. William E. Miller, a congressman from a district near Niagara Falls in upstate New York and the Republican National Chairman, in 1964, largely because he annoyed Lyndon B. Johnson. Walter Mondale chose Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (R-New York) in 1984 and John McCain ran with the largely unknown governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, in 2008.
Van Drew would not necessarily have to give up is 2nd district House seat if he ran for vice president. Under Cory’s Law, passed by New Jersey’s Democratic-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in November 2019, senators and congressmen can run for re-election simultaneously with a bid for president or vice president. The law was passed to allow Cory Booker to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2020, even as he was seeking the presidency.
If Trump winds up as the nominee, and if Van Drew really does make it to the short list, it would be the second time a New Jerseyan was a Veep finalist on a Trump ticket. In 2016, Gov. Chris Christie was a leading contender to be Trump’s running mate before he went with Mike Pence.
Van Drew, 69, would be the first New Jersey to run for vice president since Garret Hobart, a former New Jersey Senate President, ran with William McKinley in 1896.
New Jerseyans have been considered for the VP slot before.
Hillary Clinton vetted Booker in 2016 prior to choosing Tim Kaine. House Judiciary Chairman Peter W. Rodino, Jr. (D-Newark) was one of seven finalists Jimmy Carter announced in 1976, and Gov. Richard J. Hughes made it to the final three before Hubert Humphrey went with Edmund Muskie.
There was serious talk about two other New Jersey governors running for vice president, Tom Kean with George Bush in 1988 and Christine Todd Whitman with Bob Dole in 1996. Bill Bradley’s name kept popping up in the media in 1988 and 1992, but never made it to serious consideration. Johnson reportedly mulled Gallagher as his 1964 running mate before settling on Humphrey.
Van Drew would also be the first dentist to run on a major party ticket.
Republicans tried to beat Van Drew for years after he unseated GOP incumbents in State Assembly and State Senate races, but without success. But since the party switch, his new party has embraced him.
He won the 2020 Republican primary with 82% against a former Trump administration official and won 86% against two primary opponents this year. Van Drew is favored to win re-election to a third term in November against Democrat Tim Alexander, a civil rights attorney and former prosecutor.
This story was updated at 12:03 PM with comment from Van Drew.