Inside the push to make Representative Byron Donalds Donald Trump’s Veep Choice

With the entry of Governor Ron DeSantis into the 2024 presidential race, the GOP primary battle is finally – truly – underway. And yet, Trump and his allies already seem more interested in another race: the veepstakes.

While Trump was previously obsessed with picking a woman for his vice presidential nominee, a little-known congressman from Florida apparently caught the former president’s attention.

The conversation began the night of Trump’s CNN town hall, when second-term Representative Byron Donalds (R-FL) participated in the network’s postgame coverage. Donalds wasn’t just overly effusive about Trump’s performance; he deftly chided CNN and city hall moderator Kaitlan Collins for repeatedly interrupting the former president.

“Kaitlan spent more time interjecting her own views or her own opinions about the situation,” Donalds claimed, further teasing CNN panelists when he appeared to argue that Trump had the right to speak freely without being verified.

Donalds hit back hard, arguing that city halls are for voters, not journalists. And he claimed that normal people wanted to talk about issues like the border, inflation and foreign policy, not January 6 or whether the 2020 election was fair. For his efforts, Donalds was rewarded with pro-MAGA media, even claiming that Donalds had dropped an “atomic sledgehammer of truth” on CNN.

Donalds, one of four black Republicans in the House, looks more like he belongs on a cable news show than a Freedom Caucus meeting, but he seems quite comfortable in both scenarios. He is a former financial adviser who became involved in politics surrounding the rise of the Tea Party in 2009, becoming State Representative in 2016 and Congressman three days before January 6, 2021.

So when Donalds defended Trump on the CNN airwaves, Trump took notice.

After his controversial appearance on CNN – which immediately he was viral in the MAGA Twitterverse – the former president called him and thanked Donalds for standing up for him. That conversation has now become a point of fascination for some Trump allies and Republican congressmen.

A Trump adviser noted that it made sense for Donalds to get Trump’s attention; television is, after all, the main test of viability for the former president.

“When someone gets TV time, it happens,” the Trump adviser, who spoke about the vice presidential picks with the former president, told The Daily Beast. “Byron is amazing.”

Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN), who called Donalds an “excellent legislator” who is “young enough” to do the job in an interview with The Daily Beast, tweeted his praise for the vice president’s idea on Wednesday.

When The Daily Beast asked Burchett where that tweet originated, the Tennessee Republican said it came “from the heart.”

“Byron is a dear friend and he is the American Dream,” said Burchett. “He came with nothing and had a good mother.”

(Burchett then characteristically quipped that Donalds was “lackluster on the baseball field” compared to himself.)

Regardless of Donalds diamond skills – or lack thereof – Donalds acknowledged that he had a conversation with Trump after the CNN appearance.

“He called me. He was like, you know, he just said, ‘You were amazing. And just thanks for standing your ground there,'” Donalds said.

He went on to tell Trump that it was “easy to tell the truth” and reported that having his name thrown around in the vice president’s conversations was surreal.

“I’m not trying to belittle the subject, but at the same time, being a small town boy, having a career, being a husband, being a father, now a member of Congress,” he said. “Wow.”

Donalds questioned how real the conversation was, but also suggested he wasn’t spending a lot of time thinking about it.

“I haven’t thought about it much. Just focused on my work. I can’t even process it,” he told The Daily Beast.

Exactly how real the whole conversation is remains an issue at Trumpworld. Some Trumpworld aides and participants told The Daily Beast that Trump really wasn’t at that stage, while others reported that they discussed the vice presidential race with Trump and others in his orbit.

While one adviser dismissed the speculation, they were emphatic that these discussions were at least more real than Trump’s concerns about the newest presidential primary candidate.

“There is no concern for DeSantis. The polls are indicative of that,” this person said on Thursday. “DeSantis just imploded on Twitter last night. He scrapped his first personal event. He is trailing Trump by 40 points in some early states.”

It is true that Trump holds a dominant lead over DeSantis, but the race is best described as hours behind. While Trump’s leadership in these early states is crucial, DeSantis appears to be developing a delegation strategy that could at least give Trump a run for his money.

A key state in this DeSantis strategy is Florida. Florida is a winner-take-all state in terms of delegates in the GOP primary, meaning a DeSantis victory in his home state could be critical.

Which is all the more reason why Donalds would be an intriguing vice president choice.

Donalds is, of course, from Florida, and could potentially eat into DeSantis’ lead in that state. (Trump also claims Florida as his home state, but a recent poll found that DeSantis had a Florida State advantage among Republicans there.)

The Donalds ties to Florida, however, also come with ties to DeSantis. The Florida congressman and his wife are close to DeSantis and the Florida governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis. In fact, Donalds introduced DeSantis on election night in November, when the governor was re-elected by a 19-point margin. And Donalds has also shown some interest in eventually running for governor of Florida himself.

So it was a little surprising when Donalds endorsed Trump in April. Donalds has always defended this decision and has now become a fixture in the Trump camp.

Of course, Trump is only after a vice president because he threw the last one under the MAGA bus. When Mike Pence refused to annul the 2020 election, Trump directed his Twitter ire at him and sat silently for hours as insurgents looked for the vice president to be hanged. When asked during the CNN town hall if he owed Pence an apology, Trump not only didn’t apologize, he doubled down.

“He did something wrong,” Trump said of Pence. “He should have sent the votes back to the state legislatures and I think we would have got a different result.”

Still, there appears to be no shortage of elected Republicans jumping at the chance to partner with Trump and potentially serve in his administration.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, Trump’s list of vice presidents already includes such representatives as Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), former Democratic Representative-turned-Republican Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Former South Carolina Governor (and current presidential candidate) Nikki Haley, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake all failed.

A Trump adviser told The Daily Beast, however, that, “in particular, he is not excited about Noem, Haley or Lake.”

In late April, a group of Trump-supporting Florida House members met with the former president at Mar-a-Lago, where notably Representative Cory Mills (R-FL) and the Donalds were seated next to the former president. president.

Rep. Byron Donalds next to Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago.

Courtesy of Cory Mills

Mills, who strongly supported Trump choosing Donalds as vice president, told The Daily Beast that Trump had chosen the seat for that event, where the Florida delegation discussed whether or not Trump should attend certain debates and how to advance Trump’s political agenda. Trump in the future. .

“I would support Congressman Donalds 100 percent,” Mills said, before noting that he heard his own name “pitch” for a position in Trump’s cabinet.

“A lot of people are lobbying for themselves and lobbying for others,” the Trump adviser, who said the former president was currently depressed about Noem, Haley and Lake, told The Daily Beast. “It’s already a silly season!”

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