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GOP Senators Think They Have the Inside Scoop on the VP Race After Meeting With Trump

Trump mentioned Sens. Marco Rubio and J.D. Vance in the meeting. But he really likes Tim Scott.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks in front of President Donald Trump
Sen. Tim Scott speaks in front of President Donald Trump during a campaign rally. Patrick Semansky/AP

During a day in which Donald Trump held multiple events on Capitol Hill and discussed a sprawling range of topics, senators leaving an afternoon meeting with the former president on Thursday had one big takeaway: Trump really likes Sen. Tim Scott.

Scott, who ran for president before dropping out prior to the Iowa caucuses, got a surprising amount of love from the former president — far more than other specific senators.

Asked Thursday night if his vice presidential pick was in the room during his meeting with senators, Trump told Fox News “probably.”

“Yeah. Probably,” he said. “I don’t want to go [into details], but I think [it] will probably get announced during the convention.”

As Trump finalizes his VP selection, senators seem to be engaging in a treasured Washington parlor game: determining who’s the favorite to be Trump’s running mate.

According to Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Trump name-checked three rumored contenders in the Senate GOP: Scott, J.D. Vance and Marco Rubio.

While Cramer was careful to note Trump didn’t explicitly bring them up as his future No. 2, Cramer said Trump’s commentary was conspicuous enough that it was “worth noting.”

“If you’ve been around him, you know, he often references people by name when he sees you,” Cramer said. “And he spreads it around, and it’s just a gift he has.”

In Scott’s case, Cramer said Trump “made a big deal of how much better Tim was at being a surrogate than being a candidate.”

While that backhanded compliment may appear to be more backhanded than a compliment, Cramer suggested it was received in the room — and seemed to be intended — positively. Cramer claimed the comment was “very sweet.”

“It’s very respectful,” Cramer said of Trump’s remark, “and rightfully so, because it’s really quite a remarkable characteristic of Scott’s.”

Trump came to the Senate GOP’s campaign headquarters Thursday after a morning meeting with House Republicans that was pure Trump. The Senate meeting seemed much tamer, but senators left with plenty of insights, most notably a sense of certain senators’ standing with the former president.

According to senators, even the seating chart seemed to carry some significance.

Senate GOP No. 3 John Barrasso of Wyoming and campaign Chair Steve Daines of Montana were seated next to Trump. Rubio, Vance and Scott also sat toward the front of the room, according to Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas.

Several senators noted that, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky didn’t sit at the front with Trump, he did shake hands with and speak to the former president. McConnell and Trump previously hadn’t spoken since December 2020, according to a source familiar with the matter.

A handful of Trump critics showed up at the meeting, including two who voted to convict Trump after Jan. 6, 2021: Sens. Bill Cassidy and Mitt Romney. But other Trump detractors, like Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, did not attend.

Cassidy also left the National Republican Senate Committee early and was tight-lipped with reporters about the meeting. Romney also declined to discuss the meeting with the press. (Senators in the room told NOTUS Trump did not deride Cassidy or Romney at any point.)

According to a source in the room, Sen. Lindsey Graham requested that Trump remind voters that Senate Democrats are just as bad as Biden. Trump agreed and name-dropped vulnerable Senate Democrats Jon Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio — two states that Trump won in 2020 and 2016 — saying they opposed everything he did while in office even though they’re now trying to campaign like Republicans.

Trump also offered to boost GOP Senate candidates in states where he is polling ahead by holding rallies and virtual town halls, according to Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma — something Trump also raised with House Republicans earlier Thursday.

In addition, Trump recycled his idea of eliminating taxes on tips, but this time, he went further into detail about the genesis of the idea. Trump told senators he came up with the idea after speaking with a waitress in Las Vegas. Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming called it Trump’s “sweetest” moment of the meeting.

Several senators described the mood in the room as upbeat, saying Trump was in his element with a captive audience.

“He can go from bodacious to humble and lovable on a dime,” Lummis told NOTUS.

Two senators recalled to NOTUS that Trump cracked jokes about his golf game with Graham, after the two men played on Wednesday.

“He’s always rubbing it in with Lindsey,” Lummis said, after Trump beat him handily.

Not to be outdone by the obsequiousness of House Republicans, who sang the former president “Happy Birthday” and presented him with souvenirs from Wednesday’s Congressional Baseball Game, the Senate Republicans gave Trump a sheet cake.

Although the senators didn’t sing “Happy Birthday,” Sen. Ted Cruz said they placed 45 candles on the cake to mark his tenure as the 45th president — and then they added two more to mark 47.

Riley Rogerson and Reese Gorman are reporters at NOTUS.