Trump Donors on the Brink of Civil War Over J.D. Vance for VP

In his rise from Donald Trump critic to viable contender to be the presumptive Republican nominee’s running mate, Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio has come so far. But he may fall just short thanks to some risk-averse GOP donors.

Ironically, the bearded 39-year-old—at least for now, given Trump’s well-documented aversions to facial hair—Ivy League author may end up hoist by his own petard. The best thing Vance has going for him in the Trump veepstakes, among the base, may also be his undoing as a potential running mate—some donors are scared of him.

The very same coastal elites who once adored Vance have been trying to sabotage his vice presidential aspirations, according to three Republicans familiar with the veepstakes who spoke to The Daily Beast. All spoke under the condition of anonymity in order to relay private conversations among donors around the most hush-hush of discussions in Trumpworld.

Vance’s two main rivals, according to most reports, stand to benefit: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, for whom Trump has a soft spot as someone seemingly perfectly cast for the job with his founding father-type look, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whom sources described as the “safe option.”

“Donors have really coalesced around Burgum and Rubio at this point,” a Republican strategist who has been in contact with donors for months over the Trump veepstakes told The Daily Beast. Vance, on the other hand, “hasn’t done anything meaningful” in the eyes of some of the more traditional Republican major donors. “He’s just gone on Fox.”

Ohio has produced eight presidents and three vice presidents in the nation’s history. Yet long-simmering grievances among Trump donors may pull the rug out from under Vance, The Daily Beast has learned.

Yet there’s another, more dangerous wrench donors have quietly tried to throw into the engine behind Vance’s chances to land the No. 2 spot on the GOP presidential ticket.

One of Trump’s co-campaign managers is perceived among the donor crowd as playing favorites with Vance, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

“The person who’s had some outside influence here is Susie Wiles,” the same GOP strategist said, based on conversions with donors, “and she certainly wants Vance. Vance is like her little pet.”

Vance’s team did not return a request for comment, nor did Wiles, a Palm Beach-based GOP political operative exiled by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019 who has been widely credited within Trumpworld for the 2024 campaign’s more buttoned-up tactical approach.

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung denied that Wiles had any involvement in the veepstakes.

“Susie, and the rest of the campaign team, have never tried to influence the choice for vice president,” Cheung said in an email before reiterating that the VP decision “alone belongs to President Trump and he will make a decision at the place and time of his choosing.”

Donald Trump invites J.D. Vance to the stage during a “Save America” rally held in Vandalia, Ohio.

Donald Trump invites J.D. Vance to the stage during a “Save America” rally held in Vandalia, Ohio.

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Cheung also described “anyone who thinks otherwise” as “obviously out of the loop and has no idea what is actually going on. He also described the Republicans in contact with donors as “bottom-feeding parasites” who “do nothing more than to leech of [sic] drama and fake news because they have to disassociate themselves from their sad, miserable existence.”

The big announcement is expected sometime in the days right before or during the Republican National Convention scheduled to begin on Monday in Milwaukee.

Aside from what Vance’s proponents call his “realist” foreign policy views—a fresh polish on Trump’s isolationism—a sect of foreign policy-focused donors was already worried about Vance compared to Rubio as The Daily Beast reported in May.

According to Trumpworld sources who spoke to The Daily Beast about the veepstakes in recent weeks, Burgum remains the favorite heading into the convention.

More recently, the concerns around Vance have shifted among the so-called smart-money crowd from foreign policy to other realms.

A Trump-Vance T-shirt at the 2024 Turning Point USA Convention in Detroit.

A Trump-Vance T-shirt at the 2024 Turning Point USA Convention in Detroit.

Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

“J.D. Vance is a guy who wrote a book and helped with a Netflix show,” the strategist said. The source said the most common qualms with Vance among donors are around his lack of Senate experience—just two years—as well as a lack of business experience.

Vance did, however, cut his teeth in corporate law and then in the venture capital sector starting in 2017 under the tutelage of conservative billionaire Peter Thiel.

Then there’s an often-overlooked data point from his 2022 midterm victory.

Even though he had a comfortable enough 7-point margin of victory over former Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) in the increasingly red Buckeye State, Vance underperformed Republican Gov. Mike DeWine by almost 10 percentage points when they were both on the ballot in 2022.

Among a certain type of donor, “it’s like, not only does he lack the experience… there was a wide set of DeWine-Ryan voters who did not want J.D. Vance,” the strategist relaying the Vance concerns said.

Those voters are replicable in the main battleground states, particularly in the Rust Belt, the strategist and others told The Daily Beast. And in such a high-stakes election, that’s a risk the smart money donors won’t take.

Among the Republican base, Vance has emerged as a clear favorite, considered by some to be the future of the MAGA movement.

He also enjoys the support of other big-time donors.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) speaks to reporters in the spin room following the CNN Presidential Debate last month.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) speaks to reporters in the spin room following the CNN Presidential Debate last month.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Silicon Valley billionaire and former Ron DeSantis-backer David Sacks said during the opening remarks of a June California fundraiser that the soirée “wouldn’t have happened” without Vance, who worked to get Sacks to endorse Trump.

The flattering remarks were seen in Trumpworld as a major notch in his column. Vance has also hosted multiple fundraisers for Trump, including a large-dollar one in Cincinnati in May and another smaller one in Cleveland.

Yet as Burgum has continued to rise, given his own net worth of an estimated $100 million and wealthy connections from his software business career, he’s emerged as an initially unlikely favorite among GOP bigwig donors.

“Burgum makes the most sense to me,” the GOP strategist said.

Burgum’s team did not reply to a request for comment.

Still, those who spoke with The Daily Beast for this story acknowledged donor influence is waning by the day the closer Trump gets to the convention.

“At this point,” another Trump operative said, “I think the Republican donor class wants a GOP president more than anything.”

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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