Plus, is inflation being measured properly for rural Americans?

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 10 minutes.

Today, we're breaking down the contenders to be Donald Trump's vice president. Plus, a question about how inflation is measured for rural areas.

Penn's encampment.

I'm planning to visit the protesters at Penn to get an idea of what things are really like at the student encampments. If you are a Penn student or a protester (or both) who wants to chat, feel free to shoot me an email. If you have any tips or questions you want answered in a forthcoming article or YouTube video, drop me a line at

Quick hits.

  1. U.S. Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who is presiding over Donald Trump’s classified documents case, has delayed the trial indefinitely, citing a backlog of pre-trial materials. (The decision) Separately, Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star who goes by Stormy Daniels, testified yesterday in a criminal trial that she had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006 and was given a "hush money" payment to stay quiet about it. (The testimony)
  2. Yesterday, Israel took control of the Gaza-Egypt Rafah crossing, which has served as one of the few corridors for humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Ceasefire and hostage release negotiations are continuing. (The latest) Separately, the Biden administration confirmed it halted a large shipment of offensive weapons to Israel last week over concern about Israel’s operation in Rafah. (The pause)
  3. Ukrainian officials said they arrested two Russian colonels who they allege were plotting to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky. (The arrests)
  4. TikTok sued the U.S. government over a recently passed law that would force it to divest or face a ban from U.S. app stores. (The suit)
  5. A Georgia appeals court said it would hear an appeal of the ruling that kept Fani Willis on Donald Trump’s election interference case, likely delaying the trial. (The appeal)

Today's topic.

Trump’s pick for vice president. Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump headlined the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat in Florida, an event that doubled as a showcase of Trump’s potential running mates. These attendees — dubbed “special guests” — included Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Sen. Tim Scott (SC), Sen. J.D. Vance (OH), Gov. Doug Burgum (ND), Gov. Kristi Noem (SD), Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY) and Rep. Byron Donalds (FL), among others. 

Every year, the retreat brings together major Republican donors and politicians, but heightened interest in Trump’s vice presidential pick added an air of intrigue to the weekend. Trump, who officially clinched the Republican nomination in March, leaned into the fanfare, hosting the VP hopefuls for interviews at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Saturday and offering real-time assessments of their political attributes. While Bloomberg reported that Vance, Burgum, Rubio and Scott are currently at the top of Trump’s list, the former president told FOX6 Milwaukee that he won’t make his decision until shortly before the Republican National Convention in July. 

As some candidates have risen, others have fallen. Most notably, Noem’s prospects dimmed after she made headlines for writing about shooting her 14-month-old dog in her new memoir (Noem wrote that the dog was aggressive and posed a danger to her children and others). Her situation worsened when it was revealed that Noem asked her publisher to remove a passage in her book in which she claimed to have met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during her time in Congress. Kari Lake, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in Arizona’s Senate race, has also reportedly been eliminated from Trump’s list, as has entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is being considered for a cabinet position. 

Trump’s court cases are also a factor driving his decision. In addition to limiting his time on the campaign trail, Trump’s legal woes have hindered his ability to fundraise from wealthy donors as he tries to make up a sizable funding gap with President Joe Biden’s campaign. Although his ongoing New York trial is generating a surge of small-dollar donations, Trump is reportedly prioritizing fundraising by considering how candidates will perform as his surrogate on the campaign trail. 

In that regard, Tim Scott’s prospects are improving. “As a candidate he did a good job, but as a surrogate he's unbelievable,” Trump said of Scott. 

However, Scott’s eagerness to represent Trump as a surrogate has resulted in his own controversy. Appearing on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Scott repeatedly declined to say whether he would accept the results of the 2024 election. “At the end of the day, the 47th president of the United States will be President Donald Trump,” Scott said. “That is my statement.”

Trump is likely two months away from making his pick, but the donor retreat and recent controversies have heightened speculation about his decision. Today, we’re going to explore arguments from the left and right about Trump’s options for a running mate, then my take.  

What the left is saying.

  • The left says Trump will only choose a running mate who supports his claims about the 2020 election.
  • Some suggest the calculus behind Trump’s pick is much different now than in 2016.
  • Others argue it would be political folly to accept the job from Trump.

In The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie wrote about “the one thing Trump knows he wants in a running mate.” 

“Donald Trump has yet to choose a running mate for his third attempt to win the White House. But he does seem to have at least one litmus test for anyone who hopes to play the part of Mike Pence in a second Trump administration: You cannot say that you’ll accept the results of the 2024 election,” Bouie said. “There is no need for Trump to say anything else; all the Republicans vying to stand by his side understand that they’ll lose their shot if they accept the basic democratic norm that a loss may not be overturned after the fact.”

“By essentially demanding this particular ideological commitment from prospective vice-presidential nominees, Trump is making a real break with political tradition,” Bouie wrote. “Trump embraced the logic of balancing in his first campaign, choosing Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana as a sign of his commitment to the interests of conservative ideologues and the priorities of conservative evangelicals… That is almost certain not to happen [this time]. Whether it is Scott or Burgum or Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio or even the noted canine killer Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Trump will select for loyalty — not to a set of ideas or to the Republican Party.”

In The Atlantic, Elaine Godfrey said “Trump’s VP search is different this time.”

“Trump’s team loves messing with the media almost as much as it loves jockeying for influence with the big man himself,” Godfrey wrote. “But the truth is, none of these supposed insiders really knows much. No one has any idea what Trump is thinking, except for Trump himself. And the former president is quite famously unpredictable, with a well-established tendency to make decisions based on his most recent conversation. Predicting his Veep pick, then, is a bit futile.”

“Still, without prognosticating too much, we can anticipate what Trump is probably looking for in a vice president… He’ll choose a candidate with experience, or at least with some record of being a winner. He is probably not looking for a politician to ‘balance’ out his ticket like Mike Pence did in 2016, when Trump desperately needed to win over evangelicals,” Godfrey said. “Above all, of course, Trump will want someone unfailingly loyal to him. This time around, it’s not about logic or persuasion—it’s about personality.”

In USA Today, Rex Huppke asked “who will be dumb enough to become Donald Trump's vice president?”

“That anyone would consider applying for the job is remarkable. It’s like asking for volunteers to report for sticking-your-finger-in-a-light-socket duty. The position of Trump’s vice president brings with it the kind of job safety only found among nervous snake handlers and crash-test dummies. And yet, people are actually vying for the gig. A pack of them descended on South Florida this weekend to debase themselves before a twice-impeached former one-term president who demands absolute loyalty while dispensing none.”

“Notably absent from the Cynical South Florida Keister Smooch Fest of 2024 was former actual Vice President Mike Pence, who had the audacity to not help Trump do a coup and is now persona non grata in the MAGA wing of the GOP. That a former president’s own vice president won’t even endorse his current presidential run is a staggering fact that’s often overlooked,” Huppke wrote. “Whatever Trump took away from this weekend’s parade of potential victims, the timing of his decision is anybody’s guess.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right is mixed on who Trump should choose, but many say the pick is unusually important this election.
  • Some express dismay at the hopefuls’ attempts to show their allegiance to Trump.
  • Others say his pick will have no bearing on the outcome of the election.

In Fox News, Liz Peek discussed “5 key criteria” Trump should consider in his running mate.

“Oftentimes the vice presidential choice is not especially consequential; this time it is. Trump can only serve one term. If you believe, like two-thirds of your fellow Americans, that the country is on the wrong track, you must agree that four years of Donald Trump will not suffice,” Peek said. “The former president gets it. More than once, he has said that his major criteria in choosing a running mate will be that the individual can serve as president.”

“I judge the candidates on these five attributes: 1. Credible presidential candidate; 2. Loyalty to Donald Trump; 3. Well vetted, not likely to surprise; 4. Helps with an important demographic, state and/or fund-raising; 5. Aligns with Trump on abortion… Many centrist Republicans would like to see Nikki Haley run with Trump, thinking she could attract women to the ticket and also moderate voters who dislike both Biden and the former president. It might work, but would require repairing what became a serious rift between her and her former boss,” Peek wrote. “In the coming weeks, expect to see Trump road-test numerous candidates. For the sake of the country, let’s hope he chooses a winner.”

In The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis criticized the candidates professing “blind loyalty” to Trump.

“Historically, party nominees seek to balance their ticket in some way with the selection… But Trump is anything but a traditional candidate, and he often acts via his ‘gut.’ He’s also susceptible to flattery, so it is difficult to game out his thinking,” Lewis said. “Trump may not respect Scott, but choosing him would balance the ticket with a likable candidate who would be the first African-American vice president (and a go-to yes-man for any of Trump’s harebrained ideas). Scott’s fawning loyalty to Trump is disgusting, which is why he has a chance.”

“I don’t think he’s overly concerned about electoral considerations such as playing for a state or a demographic. Having been chastened by Mike Pence’s refusal to back the scheme to not certify the 2020 electoral votes, Trump may prize blind loyalty over all else. If the game is vicious sycophancy, Stefanik will be hard to beat,” Lewis wrote. “If we know anything about Trump, it’s that he loves dragging these things out and watching people prostrate themselves and fawn over him for his blessing. After long days holed up in a freezing courtroom, the warm praise and adoration in sunny Florida could be just what the doctor ordered.”

In The Washington Examiner, Brady Leonard argued “Trump’s vice presidential pick won’t matter.”

“After Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) nuked her veepstakes odds with the bizarre decision to prove her toughness by bragging about shooting a puppy with a 12-gauge, North Dakota governor and former sort-of presidential candidate Doug Burgum emerged as a top choice. Other names such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), perpetual Arizona candidate Kari Lake, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have also been floated by ‘sources,’ but Trump’s vice presidential pick likely won’t matter one way or the other.

“The 2024 presidential election is not complicated. If President Joe Biden’s team and its friends in the press can shift the focus to Trump’s legal battles and somehow convince the electorate that Jan. 6 was worse than Pearl Harbor, Biden will win. If the focus is kept on Biden’s age, mental decline, outrageous family corruption, and disastrous economic and foreign policy, The Donald will join President Grover Cleveland in the history books,” Leonard said. “This is a simple election: Sleepy Joe vs. Orange Man Bad. The stage is set. Everyone knows the players. May the best old man win.”

My take.

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  • Trump is smart to maximize the time he’s making these candidates compete for the spot.
  • He’ll probably pick the best fundraiser, but he may want to consider who can be his successor.
  • I still think Tim Scott makes the most sense, but Trump has been known to surprise us.

Like most things that have to do with Trump, his process for picking a vice president has a lot of unique elements.

For starters, I think the way Trump is going about picking his running mate is brilliant. The longer Trump openly encourages these candidates to court him, the longer he'll have a dozen very high-profile Republicans out in the press pledging their loyalty to him and covering for every misstep. Think about it: When all of these people are trying to become your vice president, you effectively have a team of surrogates campaigning for you every day. The longer Trump has that, the better.

I also want to keep in mind the unusual or unprecedented things specific to Trump. First, he is going to be in a lot of courtrooms over the next few months, so he can't afford to pick a neutral person who can only offer a steady voice. He needs a running mate who can campaign and raise money. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who has long been the person I’ve predicted would win this position, would be a solid pick for those reasons.

Second is the 2020 election. Trump is looking for someone who will not accept that he lost in 2020 and apparently — based on how these prospects are answering questions about it — someone who will not promise to certify and oblige the 2024 results. Not to beat a dead horse, but not promising to accept the results of a democratic election is one of my few bright red lines. The 2020 election was not stolen (you can read my in-depth work on this topic here, here, here, here, here or here) and no candidate for office should be pressured into saying otherwise. But Trump demands loyalty on this topic, and so we're going to have to wade through a lot of nonsense about mail-in voting and election fraud and (still) unproven theories for which evidence has never materialized even as we sit here in 2024.

At the same time, Trump also has to find a successor. It's hard to know how much (if at all) someone like Trump will weigh that calculation. I’m willing to bet Trump’s sole focus is on the here and now, and how to beat Joe Biden. But remember: If he wins, he gets one term. Then he's done. That means Trump’s vice president will be the most high-profile Republican in the country four years from now, and the person most likely to fill his seat and aim to occupy the White House for an additional eight years. Who, from this list, is capable of also winning the 2028 general election? Surely Republican strategists are going to be whispering in Trump’s ear about that.

Ultimately, Trump probably needs the same thing he got from Mike Pence in 2016: someone people trust, someone moderates are drawn to, and someone who understands the government. There is a strong case he should choose a woman, but he's alienated Nikki Haley, Kristi Noem has lit her chances on fire, and Kari Lake is reportedly off the short list (and is obviously running for Senate in Arizona). That leaves only Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Of the two, I suspect Stefanik has the definitive edge. She is something of a conservative media darling, she's young, she's feisty, and she's completely walked the Trump party line (at least since she converted from a Trump critic to a Trump supporter). Blackburn, conversely, is a 71-year-old senator who spent most of her career as part of the Republican establishment, has a long history in public life, and would be an easy target on the campaign trail.

All the other big names in the mix just seem hard to imagine. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in particular is someone whose public reputation was tarnished in large part by Trump. Remember not so long ago when Trump was deriding him as "Little Marco" and Rubio was responding by talking about Trump's small hands? Maybe these two reconcile and Trump takes in an establishment Republican for some cred, but I just... can't picture it.

If I had a big board, this is how I’d rank the chances of Trump’s prospects:

  1. Tim Scott
  2. Elise Stefanik
  3. J.D. Vance
  4. Doug Burgum
  5. Marsha Blackburn

For what it's worth: There is always the chance Trump taps someone nobody is talking about or goes for a very low-profile person — perhaps a member of the House like Wesley Hunt (TX) or Michael Waltz (FL), whom Democrats would have to spend months vetting and doing opposition research on before running against. But I doubt that. Remember, Trump needs a fundraiser and someone people would trust to run the White House, so I think those picks are unlikely; though Donald Trump has been known to surprise.

Take the survey: Who do you think Donald Trump will choose as his running mate? Let us know!

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Your questions, answered.

Q: You mention that "inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is designed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track price fluctuations for urban buyers who represent the vast majority of Americans."

I often think about the division between rural and urban America. Are there any indices that monitor price fluctuations in rural areas, either by the Fed or another entity? If so, how do they compare and how do you think it plays into the politics of the economy? 

— Andrew from Dayton, OH

Tangle: This is something that’s always concerned me about the CPI, too. Yes, people living in metropolitan areas represent about 83% of the U.S. population. And, yes, localized inflation in major cities like New York usually outpaces inflation in the rest of the country. But that doesn’t mean that we can draw trends for the entire country based on a metric that excludes 17% of it. I’ve expressed concerns about the ability of our traditional economic indicators to truly represent the day-to-day economic security most Americans have, and the way the CPI is measured is part of that. 

This question speaks to one other element often brought up in economic stories: different economic perceptions based on partisan views. According to Pew, 44% of Democrats say the economy is excellent or good compared to 13% of Republicans. That’s usually explained away by partisan bias, but I wonder if there’s something deeper going on. Considering that Republicans represent most of rural America, I think it’s possible that — broadly speaking — Republican voters and Democrat voters aren’t just interpreting different realities through how they read the news, but they could actually be experiencing different realities.

The short answer is that yes, there are other metrics to measure rural inflation; but no, they aren’t regularly tracked in any federal or non-governmental index that I’m aware of. Economists Stephen Weiler and Tessa Conry wrote a great piece in The Conversation that describes the four things that differentiate rural expenditures from urban ones: larger reliance on cars and fuel, more sensitivity to grocery prices, a proportionally older population more sensitive to healthcare costs, and less expensive housing (but more expensive heating and cooling). When you consider that, because of their volatility, the core CPI excludes those same fuel prices that rural Americans feel more acutely, you can really start to see why so many Republicans have felt like they were being told the weather was beautiful in the middle of a storm.

The closest thing to an index demonstrating how rural Americans felt inflation differently for the first two years of Joe Biden’s term comes from Iowa State Professor David Peters. Last year, Peters published this article to illustrate how those differences — and the price of gasoline in particular — led to rural Americans feeling inflation in 2022 much more acutely than indicated by core CPI.

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Under the radar.

A new survey of college students by Generation Lab produced a surprising result: The conflict in the Middle East was the least important issue for students on campus. In the survey, 1,250 students were presented with nine issues: healthcare reform, educational funding and access, economic fairness and opportunity, racial justice and civil rights, climate change, gun control, immigration policies, national security/terrorism, and the conflict in the Middle East. Just 13% said the conflict was "most important" to them, while 40% said healthcare reform and 38% said educational funding. Only 8% said they had participated in either side of the Israel-Palestine protests. Furthermore, 34% of students blame Hamas for the current situation, while 19% blame Netanyahu, 12% blame the Israeli people, and 12% blame Biden. Axios has the story


  • 68. The number of days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, WI.
  • 18.8%. Tim Scott’s odds to be Donald Trump’s running mate, the highest of any candidate, according to Election Betting Odds. 
  • 11.7%. J.D. Vance’s odds to be Trump’s running mate.
  • 6.9%. Elise Stefanik’s odds to be Trump’s running mate.
  • -3.6%. Trump’s polling deficit against Hillary Clinton on July 15, 2016, the day before he announced Mike Pence as his running mate, according to FiveThirtyEight.
  • -0.2%. Trump’s polling deficit against Clinton fifteen days after announcing Pence as his running mate. 
  • 8.3%. Joe Biden’s polling advantage over Trump on August 10, 2020, the day before he announced Kamala Harris as his running mate. 
  • 9.3%. Biden’s polling advantage over Trump fifteen days after announcing Harris as his running mate.

The extras.

  • One year ago today we covered Jordan Neely’s death.
  • The most clicked link in yesterday’s newsletter was the ad in the free version for The Daily Upside.
  • Nothing to do with politics: Why Hitler’s yacht is sunken off the coast of Florida.
  • Yesterday’s survey: 1,035 readers answered our survey on a global wealth tax for billionaires with 48% strongly opposed. “In theory it is a great idea but in practice, well, I can't see it working in the altruistic way it would be meant to work,” one respondent said.

Have a nice day.

While Gen Z may not be wealthy compared to Baby Boomers or Gen X, historically speaking, this current generation is doing pretty well. A new analysis from the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress says that economic conditions have enriched Gen Z, along with millennials, relative to other generations at their age. Using Federal Reserve data, the authors found that Americans under 40 years old have had their credit card and student loan debt decrease while the value of their assets has risen. The Progress Network has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.