From critics to VP picks: Here’s how Trump’s running mate candidates had bashed him earlier

From critics to VP picks: Here’s how Trump’s running mate candidates had bashed him earlier
JD Vance and Marco Rubio were not part of the Donald Trump fandom earlier (Stephanie Keith, Luke Hales/Getty Images, Getty Images)

Trump’s VP picks: A look at how the 8 contenders criticized MAGA strongman earlier

(Getty Images, Angela Weiss-Pool/Getty Images, Getty Images)
Sen Tim Scott and Rep Elise Stefanik were critics of Donald Trump before they turned into his staunch allies (Getty Images, Angela Weiss-Pool/Getty Images, Getty Images)

Many in the Republican Party did not grant a warm welcome to Donald Trump when he first entered the presidential race in 2015. However, his shocking victory against Hillary Clinton changed the stance of many who later became loyal to the 45th president. After the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, many Republicans explicitly expressed their criticism of the real estate mogul. Nevertheless, for the past 18 months, the GOP has gathered around Trump as he eyes a second White House term in November 2024. The MAGA spearhead has filtred a final list of vice presidential picks as of Wednesday, June 5. The list includes eight Republicans: Senators JD Vance, Tim Scott, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio; Representatives Elise Stefanik and Byron Donalds; North Dakota Gov Doug Burgum; and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. These running mate contenders were no strangers to criticizing Trump in the past. Here is how the VP finalists once brutally bashed the GOP presidential nominee.

1. Rep Byron Donalds

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 10: Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), speaks with reporters as he is followed by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) as they depart a meeting with Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) at the U.S. Capitol on January 10, 2024 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day, a group of right-wing House Republicans sabotaged their own party's bills in protest of a spending deal the Speaker cut with Senate Democrats. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Rep Byron Donalds once called Donald Trump a 'huge distraction' who only cares about himself (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Donalds, at present, is a Trump surrogate, but years ago, the lawmaker had been a staunch critic of the billionaire businessman before his official entry into GOP politics. For example, in 2011, the Florida Republican described Trump as "a huge distraction" who "cares more about himself than the country." Donalds even claimed he "could care less" about him. When Trump decided not to run for president in the 2012 election, the congressman celebrated it on social media, writing, "Thank God!" He continued to attack Trump's policies throughout 2011, including accusing him of being a "self-promoter yelling about 25%  tariffs on China".

2. Sen Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 10: Committee Chairman and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the Senate S
Sen Marco Rubio branded Donald Trump a 'con artist' during their 2016 GOP presidential primary (Getty Images)

Rubio made several bitter remarks targeting Trump while they were opponents in the 2016 presidential primary. The most famous comment would be his take on the billionaire's anatomy.  "He's like 6'2", which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who's 5'2". Have you seen his hands? And you know what they say about men with small hands?" Rubio said about Trump back then. The Senator had also called his then-rival a "con artist,"  "the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency," and branded his rallies "frightening, grotesque, and disturbing." Interestingly, Rubio also predicted his current situation. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper in March 2016, he said, "For years to come, there are many people on the right, in the media and voters at large, that are going to be having to explain and justify how they fell into this trap of supporting Donald Trump." However, the Republican had no idea that he would be among those who kissed Trump's ring one day.

3. Sen JD Vance

(Getty Images)
Sen JD Vance was once a 'Never Trump guy' (Getty Images)

Sen Vance won his Senate seat with Trump's endorsement. Though he might be paying back for the support at present, the Ohio Republican was not always fond of the former president. During a 2016 interview, Vance stated he was a "Never Trump guy," adding he "never liked him." In addition, the same year, he tweeted that Trump was an "idiot." A college roommate of Vance in 2022 revealed a 2016 text from the Senator that read, "I go back and forth between thinking Trump might be a cynical a**hole like Nixon who wouldn't be that bad (and might even prove useful) or that he might be America's Hitler."

4. Rep Elise Stefanik

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) questions former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
Rep Elise Stefanik had denounced Donald Trump's treatment of women (Getty Images)

Before pledging her allegiance to Trump, Stefanik was a moderate Republican who often criticized the former president. In 2015, the New York congresswoman took a shot at the then-GOP candidate saying "in the presidential field, there are some candidates — who over the long run and they've already started this process — are somewhat disqualifying themselves with untruthful statements" and who were not "willing to really talk about the substance of issues." She also called out Trump over the way he treated women and said his "insulting" approach had "hurt" the party's efforts to connect with female voters. Following the Access Hollywood tape release in 2016, Stefanik said, "Donald Trump's inappropriate, offensive comments are just wrong — no matter when he said them or whatever the context." In addition, she opposed the real estate mogul's Muslim ban and the construction of a border wall.

5. Sen Tom Cotton

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 05: Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomi
In 2016, Sen Tom Cotton criticized Donald Trump for attacking a Gold Star family (Getty Images)

Though Cotton could not level with the sharp Trump rebukes by Mitt Romney or Ben Sasse, he had displayed his fair share of criticism against the ex-president. For instance, the lawmaker from Arkansas called out Trump for attacking a Gold Star family in 2016. Cotton advised the then-Republican nominee to "focus on what's going to keep this country safe, which in my opinion is Republican plans for our national security and our foreign policy and intelligence policy for the very reason that we don't want to have to create more Gold Star families in the future." He added "every American" must "speak to Gold Star families tenderly and with respect and even love." After the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021 he demanded Trump to accept the 2020 election results and stop "misleading the American people and repudiate mob violence." In his statement Cotton asserted that whoever attacked then Capitol would face "the full extent of federal law".

6. Sen Tim Scott

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) questions U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell
Sen Tim Scott had condemned Donald Trump's racial and ethnic remarks against other politicians and lawmakers (Getty Images)

Irrespective of Scott's unwavering support for the former president, he once belonged to the Trump critics group. The Senator announced he would not "defend the indefensible" in light of Trump's response to the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He claimed the then-president's "moral authority" was "compromised." Furthermore, in 2019, when Trump told congressional Democrats to return to the countries of their ethnicity, the South Carolina lawmaker said Trump "interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language," adding, "No matter our personal disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further." Scott also called out the former president for not denouncing "White supremacy" after Trump refused to condemn the Proud Boys during a debate with Joe Biden in 2020.

7. Ben Carson

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 26:  In a prerecorded address for the Republican National Convention release
Ben Carson and Donald Trump had often attacked each other during their 2016 presidential race (Getty Images)

Carson served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Trump's presidency. However, neither of them shared a cordial relationship while competing against each other in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. During a primary debate with Trump, he pointed out that the "biggest difference" between himself and the real estate mogul was the latter's realization of "where my success has come from." Carson added, "I don't any way deny my faith in God. And I think that probably is a big difference between us." Ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus, Carson blamed his GOP opponent for circulating "rumors" about him. He claimed that Trump was "very dishonest" and that he "acts like a politician" who does "things that are politically expedient".

8. Gov Doug Burgum

(Governor Doug Burgum/Facebook)
Gov Doug Burgum made a veiled shot at Donald Trump in an interview last year (Governor Doug Burgum/Facebook)

North Dakota Gov Burgum had taken an indirect swipe at Trump, who will be reviewing his running mate application in the coming weeks. Without naming the former president, he said that the presidential elections should be "about the future" in an interview on ABC News in August 2023. "Are they ready to move on? And I think that when we get to next January [2024], voters are going to have a chance to decide: Do they want to talk about the future, or do they want to talk about the past? I think that a majority of them are going to say, 'It's time for us to focus on the future,'" the governor said. It remains to be seen how Trump would rate Burgum's VP chances in light of the veiled shot.

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