CLEVELAND (AP) — Donald Trump need look no further than this week’s GOP crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena to assemble a future Cabinet.
There’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, delivering a rousing speech widely seen as an audition for attorney general.
There’s Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, a potential future secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, posing for pictures with vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.
And there’s Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, seen by many as a would-be secretary of state, mingling with donors and greeting foreign ambassadors who are visiting Cleveland to observe the convention proceedings.
For these politicians and others, the Republican National Convention offers a singular opportunity to try to nominate themselves for posts in a future Trump administration even as Trump is being officially nominated for president. The eyes of the political world are on Cleveland and there’s no better chance to promote themselves, make nice with key Republican officials, and prove they could be an asset to Team Trump in the next administration.
Of course, it wouldn’t do to come right out and say it.
“I think certainly the best way to ensure that you’re not part of an administration is to lobby heavily for it,” Corker told The Associated Press on Wednesday before a lunch with members of the Tennessee delegation at Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art. “At the end of the day it’s one person that makes that decision.”
But the senator, who was considered by Trump for vice president until he took himself out of the running, acknowledged that as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Certainly you would be in the realm of possibilities” for the secretary of state job.
Corker’s home-state colleagues did not bother being so discreet.
“When they mentioned about him being vice president I said, ‘No, he should be secretary of state!'” Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee said. “So the answer is, ‘Absolutely.'”
Christie, who was passed over for vice president, electrified the convention crowd earlier this week when he delivered an address excoriating Hillary Clinton, playing the role of prosecutor by listing her alleged offenses as his listeners cried “Guilty! Guilty!”
Christie ended with a strong endorsement of Trump and a declaration: “I am proud to be part of this team.”
Trump has said publicly that Christie would “make a great attorney general,” and Christie’s performance sealed the deal for some in the convention hall.
“He’d be strong. He has prosecutorial experience. He’s a good advocate,” said Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko, calling Christie the “logical choice” for attorney general.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another passed-over vice presidential hopeful, also is seen as a likely figure in a future Trump administration. He lauded Trump’s approach on foreign policy in his own convention speech late Wednesday, asserting: “Donald Trump won our party’s nomination because he is willing to tell the truth about the things that matter most.”
The Trump campaign has taken note of the advocacy by Christie and Gingrich.
Both men are “going to be involved going forward. There’s positions for all of those guys,” Donald Trump Jr. said at a breakfast in Cleveland hosted by The Wall Street Journal.
“Newt’s a brilliant guy,” Trump Jr. added. “Chris is someone we’ve known for years. We love the personality.”
The parade of potential future Trump administration officials on the Convention stage also included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; tough-talking retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn; Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions; and oil tycoon Harold Hamm, a potential energy secretary. It’s a white male crowd and some of the rising stars in the GOP aren’t in the mix.
Corker declined a speaking role at the convention, saying “I’m just not a teleprompter kind of guy.” Instead he took on a role more befitting his foreign policy profile — and a future secretary of state — including meeting with ambassadors, sitting down with Brexit leader Nigel Farage and addressing a Jewish advocacy group.
Corker also sought Thursday to explain eyebrow-raising Trump comments to the New York Times suggesting that as president he might revisit U.S. treaty obligations under NATO. “My sense is that Mr. Trump was trying to place emphasis on the importance of all countries honoring their commitments,” Corker said.
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Julie Bykowicz contributed.
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