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Trump’s V.P. Pageant Has an Unexpectedly Strong Contender: Tom Cotton

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has unexpectedly emerged as a top contender to become Donald J. Trump’s running mate, a signal that the former president is heavily weighing experience and the ability to run a disciplined campaign over other factors.

Mr. Cotton’s ascendance comes as Mr. Trump’s leading vice-presidential options have increasingly come into focus, according to three people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s thinking who insisted on anonymity to discuss private meetings.

These people said that Mr. Trump’s other current favorites were Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and three of Mr. Cotton’s Senate colleagues: Marco Rubio of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina and J.D. Vance of Ohio. The former president has also discussed the five Republican men as potential candidates for administration posts if he were to unseat President Biden in November.

Still, the people close to Mr. Trump cautioned that his vice-presidential preferences might change. The former president declined to reveal his leading candidates in an interview on Thursday with News 12, but mentioned Mr. Rubio and Mr. Vance as well as Ben Carson, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Representative Elise Stefanik of New York as examples of people “who would do a really fantastic job.”

But his current list of top five picks reflects Mr. Trump’s desire to choose a running mate who would carry relatively little risk of creating unwanted distractions for a presidential campaign already facing multiple legal threats.

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