Skip to content

Britt Pop

A dark horse may be leading the Trump veepstakes.

GOP Sen. Katie Britt speaks during a news conference on border security at the U.S. Capitol Building on September 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Political analyst Mark Halperin was recently asked who he thought Donald Trump would choose as his running mate.

The menu of shortlisters is small. There’s Kari Lake and Marjorie Taylor Greene, slavish loyalists who’d never decline the boss’ invitation to join him in a coup plot like Trump’s last running mate did. There’s Kristi Noem and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, young governors whose visibility on the trail might render him a bit less toxic among women. There’s Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, experienced pols whose elevation could signal to Trump-curious nonwhite voters that the new GOP will welcome them in.

There’s J.D. Vance, the foremost populist ideologue in the U.S. Senate. And there’s Elise Stefanik, a member of the House Republican leadership who’s fashioned a unique brand as a Harvard-educated, center-right woman willing to say literally anything, no matter how stupid and humiliating, to ingratiate herself to the party’s leader and his fans.

Halperin chose to order off the menu.

“I think Katie Britt is going to be who Trump picks. I’m going all in on that,” he told Newsmax. “I just think you compare her to the other alternatives, her upsides are huge, her downsides are very minimal, and above all else, she can go into the suburbs of Philadelphia, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Phoenix. Most of the other people who are talked about would have trouble doing that, and she speaks fluent MAGA.”

When I heard that, I snapped to attention. Not because Halperin is an oracle but because it wasn’t the first time lately that Britt’s name has been mentioned, seemingly out of the blue, as an unlikely VP frontrunner by people who are tapped into politics.

Political consultant Sarah Longwell offered Britt as a dark-horse pick for Trump’s running mate in a recent podcast at The Bulwark. And a former Republican operative with many friends inside the party told me not long ago that Britt is “the leading contender by a football field.” There seems to be a lot of behind-the-scenes buzz for a candidate who hasn’t been on the media’s radar.

And Trump did hint recently that he already knows who his running mate will be, didn’t he? I ignored that when he said it, dismissing it as typical blowhard showmanship, but now I wonder. Katie Britt is the right gender for a nominee looking to expand his support outside his male base, is married to a man who’s alpha enough to have played football at Alabama and in the NFL, and is physically attractive—which shouldn’t matter but, for a doofus who famously seeks deputies who “look the part,” assuredly does.

Trump/Britt. I sort of love it and sort of hate it.

And I can’t decide what’s crazier—that many of Trump’s fans are destined to be angry if he chooses her or that choosing her would be a highly uncharacteristic display of good judgment on his part.

Today is Katie Britt’s birthday. She’s all of 42 years old.

In her relatively short life as an adult, she became a successful corporate lawyer; founded and led her firm’s government affairs practice; was named the first woman president of the powerful Business Council of Alabama, the state’s commerce lobby; served as chief of staff to Sen. Richard Shelby; and ultimately replaced him in the Senate by routing a popular MAGA populist endorsed by Trump (temporarily) in the 2022 primary.

Despite being as junior as a junior senator can be, she was appointed last year as an adviser to the Republican leadership by Mitch McConnell. She sits on three conspicuously powerful committees—Rules, Banking, and Appropriations, apparently the first time ever that a freshman has earned that trifecta. She secured more than a billion dollars in federal funding for projects in her home state in 2023, placing her in the top 10 among all senators. Freshmen don’t typically do that either.

Britt is unusually well-liked by staffers and colleagues, Democrats included. Last year, John Thune told Politico that someday she’ll be “running this place” while Brian Schatz, a Democrat, hinted that Republican voters would be fools if they didn’t eventually seek higher office for her. She even visited fellow freshman Sen. John Fetterman at Walter Reed hospital after he checked in for treatment for depression last spring. One Alabama political analyst surmises that she’s the most popular person in the Senate.

The former Republican operative I mentioned earlier has found Britt to be “wildly impressive” in personal interactions, an opinion that’s allegedly shared within this person’s circle. They compare her to Paul Ryan circa 2006—young, yes, but plainly brighter and more sober about policy than the average congressional critter. Ryan was going places back then. Ditto Britt in 2024.

And you’ll hardly ever find her grandstanding on Fox News, let alone on more gonzo propaganda outlets like Newsmax. In a party of show horses, especially among the lousy Millennial set typified by people like Matt Gaetz, Katie Britt is a workhorse.

Sharp, charming, serious about government, very much a conservative, she’s the ideal Republican vice presidential nominee …

… for 2012. Or 2032, perhaps. But 2024?

“Yes, especially 2024,” one might reply. After all, presidential nominees typically look to “balance the ticket” when choosing their running mate. Barack Obama did it in 2008 when he chose old pro Joe Biden as VP to reassure voters who were nervous about his youth and inexperience. Trump did it in 2016 when he opted for Mike Pence to woo evangelicals leery of his, er, personal history. Biden himself did it in 2020 when he selected Kamala Harris to show the Democrats’ base of nonwhite voters that they’d be represented in the White House.

So why not Britt in 2024? What better way to balance a ticket led by a “sick f—” geriatric who barely makes a pretense of caring about policy than with a likable young Christian mom from the South who is whip-smart about business and government?

She’s basically the anti-Trump. Trump/Anti-Trump 2024 seems like a pretty balanced ticket, and an obvious way to entice anti-Trump swing voters into at least considering rolling the dice on him again. He needs a fig leaf of normalcy if he’s going to compete with Biden for undecideds this fall. Katie Britt is that fig leaf, especially with professional women whom the party is keen to win back.

Question, though: Knowing Donald Trump as you do, do you believe he’d ever seriously consider running with someone who might plausibly be described as “the anti-Trump,” a person—a woman, no less—who compares favorably to him in every way?

He did the politically safe thing in 2016 by balancing the ticket. Four years later, his reward for it was having to watch Mike Pence flush his coup plot down the toilet in real time on January 6. All signs point to Trump treating his second term as essentially one big loyalty test for Republican officials, forcing them to choose between him and the Constitution. I don’t know what Vice President Katie Britt would do in that situation, but I’m very confident about what Vice President Elise Stefanik or Vice President J.D. Vance would do.

So why would he roll the dice—again—on someone like her over either of them?

As “wildly impressive” as she is, Britt’s age and inexperience as a senator also make her a questionable choice for VP. Forty-two isn’t unusually young for a running mate; it was Paul Ryan’s age when he ran with Mitt Romney in 2012, and Stefanik is currently younger than that by several years. But it feels unusually young, partly because Americans have gotten used to presidential nominees being a thousand years old and partly because Britt has held public office for a grand total of just 13 months as I write this.

You can slap an asterisk on that if you like by reminding yourself that she gained additional government experience while working for Shelby. And you can point out that Barack Obama and Kamala Harris didn’t have much time in the Senate either—four years each—when they rose to higher office.

But that’s still longer than the two years Britt will have served by Inauguration Day 2025. Ryan had finished six terms in the House by the time Romney put him on the ticket; Stefanik has completed four terms and just started her fifth. Harris spent six years as attorney general of America’s biggest state before joining the Senate. And Obama, like Trump after him, was a political phenomenon whose inexperience was deemed irrelevant to his fitness for office in the unanswerable judgment of the primary voters who nominated him.

Britt won’t have any of that going for her if she lands on the ticket this year. She’ll have many media opportunities during the campaign to show off her know-how and try to put voters at ease, and those voters might reasonably be more willing to tolerate inexperience in a running mate when there’s a former president atop the ticket. But in the end, the Republican Party will be asking the country to trust someone who’s not yet a third of the way through her first term in government enough to place her one 78-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.

That’s a big ask. Including for some Republicans.

Donald Trump is a showman, and a showman doesn’t like to disappoint an audience.

Sit him down with a group of DREAMers and he’ll start talking up legalization. Sit him down with a group of Democrats after a mass shooting and he’ll start chattering about gun control.

He’s a crowd-pleaser by nature. A Trump/Britt ticket would displease many in his crowd, and possibly even some in his own family.

One shouldn’t underestimate the willingness of right-wingers, always so eager for a fight in other contexts, to roll over on command for their master. Look no further than the pro-life lobby, which reacted to Trump all but ruling out strict federal abortion restrictions during his second term by wagging their tails and begging for treats. If the cult leader tells the cult that Katie Britt is the most MAGA-ish MAGA who ever MAGA’d, most will accept it. That’s how cults work.

Most will accept it, but not all.

Britt has been under suspicion among populists since her Senate primary in 2022. She faced Rep. Mo Brooks, a favorite of Trump’s and of the Breitbart set, and seemed poised to end up on the wrong end of a familiar “establishment vs. The People” narrative. Trump endorsed Brooks early; populist media yelped about the number of Never Trumpers populating Britt’s circles; Donald Trump Jr. went as far as to sneer that Britt was the “Alabama Liz Cheney.” When Mitch McConnell’s operation plowed millions into her super PAC, Britt’s RINO status seemed cemented.

Then came the twist: She bounded ahead of Brooks in primary polling and never looked back.

That made Trump nervous. He’d been embarrassed once before in Alabama when he endorsed a populist so toxic that even that state’s very conservative electorate preferred the Democratic alternative. He didn’t want to endorse another loser in 2022. So when, late in the campaign, Brooks made the anodyne observation that Trump couldn’t be reinstated as president or overturn the results of the 2020 election, Trump preposterously declared him “woke” and seized the opportunity to retract his support.

Three months later, with Britt cruising to victory, he turned around and endorsed her instead—despite the fact that she’d never said anything about reinstating him as president either. “This is a gut punch. Very disappointing,” radio host Mark Levin, a Brooks supporter, said at the time. “Britt is a McConnell-supported RINO.” The head of a conservative women’s group that helped organize Trump’s rally on January 6 responded by accusing him of having become “disconnected from the base.” Among the notable names that summer to endorse Brooks over Britt were Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chip Roy, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Charlie Kirk.

Britt has been careful as a senator not to deepen the rift with populists. She’s made several trips to the southern border to highlight Biden’s failing immigration policies, earning warm words from Steve Bannon. (“Katie Britt is politically savvy and a fighter for the America First agenda.”) But every now and then suspicions about her bubble up again and spill over. Trump Jr. still isn’t a fan, it seems:

In August, Breitbart loudly wondered why Britt was the only member of Alabama’s congressional delegation who hadn’t yet endorsed Trump for president. Charlie Kirk noticed, too. The senator’s allies claimed she was bound to remain neutral due to her role on an RNC advisory council, but other members of the council had already endorsed Trump by that point.

It wasn’t until December, after the outcome of the presidential primary had become a foregone conclusion, that she finally bit the bullet.

All of which makes it very strange that Britt is allegedly running away with the veepstakes behind closed doors.

Rank-and-file Trump voters are expecting a running mate whose Republican credentials are beyond reproach. There are two ways to earn those credentials: You can wage war on the left with a snarl on your lips and a gleam in your eye, a la Ron DeSantis or Kari Lake, or you can slobber over Trump so shamelessly as to render your tribal authenticity unimpeachable, a la Elise Stefanik or Tim Scott.

Britt has done neither. She’s not booking scores of Fox News interviews to introduce herself to Trump voters by owning the libs seriatim. She’s not barnstorming the country with Trump at events to sing his praises and reassure the Kirks and Trump Jrs. of the right about her “loyalty.” She’s not even entertaining the possibility when asked about the VP slot, deflecting by stressing that she’s focused on being a senator. What she is doing is advising Mitch McConnell’s leadership team and quietly going about the business of legislating, which is the opposite of how an up-and-coming politician gets ahead in Trump’s party.

Republicans like that have been targeted for “eradication” by populists convinced that the secret to winning is to purge them from the GOP. Some Trump supporters have grown so paranoid about a non-MAGA running mate for their hero, in fact, that they’ve warned him that choosing one will trigger a palace coup. The analogy I mentioned earlier is instructive: Imagine the reaction of his base if Trump excitedly announced that his 2024 running mate will be … the new Paul Ryan, whose biggest job before her current one was leading a state’s business lobby.

It’s preposterous.

Should we root for it anyway?

I’m not rooting for it. But I admit, I probably would have in 2016.

Nothing would have gotten me to vote for Trump that year (or any year), but Sen. Britt would have fit the mold of a Cabinet member at the beginning of Trump’s first term. His advisers at the time plainly hoped to surround him with competent grown-up conservatives in influential positions, partly to calm public anxiety that he was out of his depth and partly in the hope that the influence of figures like James Mattis would make a president out of him yet.

That’s not what we’ll be getting with Trump 2.0. There’s not even a pretense that we will. Katie Britt, a 2015-vintage Republican, would be little more than a normal, relatable face on an exceedingly abnormal, post-liberal movement, which will not be “reformed” from within by responsible actors like the new vice president, as some naively hoped in 2016. It needs to be repudiated as emphatically as possible.

And so while I love “Vice President Britt” in the abstract, I hate it in practice.

If she’s willing to be a fascist’s Trojan horse on a national ticket, improving his chances of reelection and the civic disaster that will surely follow, she’s unfit for the vice presidency by definition. And she’s a fool to boot, as no one around him will escape his second term without having their allegiance to the constitutional order tested. Either Katie Britt will break by choosing Trump when that test comes, or she won’t and she’ll be even more despised by her party than Mike Pence has become.

There’s no happy ending for her, barring Trump keeling over sometime early in his next term. So I hope she’s passed over, leaving her hands clean of all this in case the right arrives at a healthier place in a few years and needs promising young leadership.

And I think she will be passed over, as Elise Stefanik checks most of the same boxes for Trump that Britt does. Stefanik can easily transform back into a smiling soft-spoken moderate for the general election campaign if that’s what her running mate needs her to be. And if he doesn’t, what she lacks in charm toward swing voters she’ll make up for with unapologetic attack-dog MAGA faux-authenticity. If you’re a populist who fears “establishment” treachery toward Trump, you should want the most soulless yes-man crony possible watching his back. That’s Elise, not Britt.

Ultimately Trump craves a woman running mate to change his political diaper, cleaning him up for sensible voters—especially women voters—who can’t stand the odor. The story of the last five years of Elise Stefanik’s career is the careerist gusto with which she’s proved willing to handle filth. She’s perfect for this very messy job.

Nick Catoggio is a staff writer at The Dispatch and is based in Texas. Prior to joining the company in 2022, he spent 16 years gradually alienating a populist readership at Hot Air. When Nick isn’t busy writing a daily newsletter on politics, he’s … probably planning the next day’s newsletter.