Top 10 picks for a Trump vice president

David Lightman
McClatchy Washington Bureau

Washington – — John Kasich a heartbeat away? Chris Christie? "Morning Joe?"

If it's Donald Trump making the pick, there's no conventional standard, no template, behind who his running mate could be.

The real-estate mogul and GOP presidential front-runner offered hints last month. "I do want somebody that's political, because I want to get lots of great legislation we all want passed." he said during a question and answer session at Regent University in Virginia. "We're going to probably choose somebody that's somewhat political."

But no names. He said it's "too early" for such speculation.

Running mates fit different needs. They can offer philosophical balance (George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, 1980). They can send a message that a new generation wants to take over (Bill Clinton and Al Gore, 1992) or pair a non-Washington figure with an insider (Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, 2012).

Here's a ranking of the people who seem like the most logical picks for Trump:

■Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. He's the rare candidate who has managed to maintain some dignity as well as engaging demeanor, a contrast to Trump's brash style. He's got experience in Washington, especially with the federal budget as former chairman of the House Budget Committee. That, plus his popularity in always-crucial Ohio, make him an attractive choice.

■Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Same temperament, same fearlessness in political combat, plus a history of doing well among traditionally Democratic constituencies. He won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2013 re-election bid. He's one of two governors to back Trump. But he blew up the Twitterverse on Tuesday night with his quizzical look as he stood behind Trump.

■Joe Scarborough. The host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" has been criticized for being too soft on Trump. He's got political credibility as a former congressman from Florida and conservative author. One problem: Scarborough was a backer of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.

■Sen. Ted Cruz. The senator from Texas and Trump were once buddies until Trump, sensing a threat from the Texas senator, began calling him a liar. But Trump praised him Tuesday night, and a Cruz pick would go far in attracting enthusiastic, hardcore conservatives.

■Ben Carson. The retired neurosurgeon retains a devoted, if smallish, following, particularly among Christian-right conservatives. He placed first in last week's Morning Consult poll of whom voters would want on the GOP ticket with Trump. But he's thin on knowledge and experience of national and international issues.

■Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Personable, outspoken against illegal immigration and boasting a solid record on conservative issues. He's been a senator for 19 years, and knows the system. Drawback: He's only six months younger than Trump, who's 69. And if Trump couldn't carry solidly Republican Alabama without a local, he can't win anyway.

■Herman Cain. He was a GOP star for about a minute in 2011 before plunging amid reports of sexual improprieties. But he remains popular in conservative circles, and the former Godfather's Pizza CEO has the business experience Trump respects.

■House Speaker Paul Ryan. Why not? Respected by all wings of the party, ran a decent vice presidential campaign in 2012, comes from the swing state of Wisconsin. Then again, the GOP lost Wisconsin last time.

■Mike Ditka. The former Chicago Bears coach and Super Bowl winner told the Chicago Sun-Times last fall Trump has the "fire in his belly to make America great again and probably do it the right way." No political experience, though. And Ditka is 76.

■Tom Brady. Looking for a younger athlete? Brady, 38, calls Trump "a good friend of mine." One problem: Brady just extended his contract to quarterback the New England Patriots for two more years.