Donald Trump

Becoming VP: The Elise Stefanik Playbook

How the North Country Congress member is positioning herself for the role of Trump’s No. 2.

Rep. Elise Stefanik joins Donald Trump at a rally in New Hampshire on Jan. 19.

Rep. Elise Stefanik joins Donald Trump at a rally in New Hampshire on Jan. 19. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When she was first sworn into Congress in 2015, Elise Stefanik was the youngest woman ever to do so. Since then, North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik’s star has risen, even garnering the kind of SNL mimicry that’s indicative of fame. Beginning her career as a moderate, she advocated for millennial causes and even pushed back at some of former President Donald Trump’s statements. But eventually came a lurch to the right that accompanied even greater success, and New Yorkers saw Stefanik’s Bush Administration know-how and North Country priorities get a healthy dose of MAGA.

It became clear how much power she wielded as chair of the House Republican Conference during the disastrous speaker race. Kiss-of-death jokes aside, she appeared to be leading the process. Stefanik now looks like a real possibility to be New York’s first Republican vice presidential candidate since Nelson Rockefeller while still being relatively young. Stefanik has been acting very Trump-friendly in recent months. Some have called her recent actions an audition.

Stefanik wasn’t named on a list of possible vice presidential candidates that Trump acknowledged during a rally aired on Fox News earlier this month. He nodded as anchor Laura Inghram ran through several options, including Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, Tulsi Gabbard and Vivek Ramaswamy. But an off-the-cuff accounting of where Trump’s leaning for a pick isn’t a death knell for Stefanik. 

Here are some of Stefanik’s most notable overtures in her quest to be vice president.

Endorse first and endorse hard

Following Trump’s loss (which Stefanik disputes) to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, it was widely suspected that he would run again in the next cycle. Stefanik endorsed him before he even announced his campaign, telling Breitbart in 2022 that Trump was “the leader of the Republican party.” Trump eventually announced he would run, and her support did not stop there. After Trump’s convincing performance in the Iowa Caucus, she said the other Republican candidates should drop out of the race. Around the same time, she said other candidates should give up, Stefanik told reporters that she would be honored to serve in the Trump administration. 

Election denying, Jan. 6 apologetics

On Jan. 6, Stefanik posted a statement about the MAGA riots at the Capitol to her website: “The perpetrators of this un-American violence and destruction must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” That post has been deleted, and Stefanik said the people in prison over the riots were “hostages” on NBC in January of this year. 

Though she seems to have changed her mind on the rioters, she has been pretty consistent that the 2020 election was stolen. Stefanik said on CNN in January that, unlike former Vice President Mike Pence, she wouldn’t have certified the 2020 Presidential election. The statement performed on two fronts, explaining why she would be a better pick than Pence and showing she would willingly feed into the stolen election myth. The factual and legal nature of her comments could be questioned, but as a strategy, does anything say “make me your running mate” like implying Trump both won his last election and should still be in office? 

Call out college presidents

The inner workings of Ivy League institutions aren’t the most transparent. But it wasn’t a coincidence that the former President of Harvard Claudine Gay and the former president of the University of Pennsylvania Liz Magill resigned after crossing paths with Stefanik. In a congressional hearing that was meant to address the rise of antisemitism on college campuses Gay and Magill fumbled in response to Stefanik’s line of questioning about whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates their policies. Stefanik painted herself as a defense against antisemitism and destroyer of the “coastal elite,” in just a day's work.  

Lead the effort to get New York Republicans reelected 

Stefanik took it upon herself to declare that she would funnel millions into New York’s elections ahead of a critical 2024 election year. Beyond money, she made it clear that she would be the connection between the national party and New York for the state’s Republicans. It’s a risky bet in the event Democrats have a stellar November. Along with other Republicans, Stefanik said she would fight back if state Democrats drew unfair congressional districts once the state Court of Appeals ordered a new batch. The maps released by the state Independent Redistricting Commission were quite similar to 2022’s, but now Democrats in the state Legislature are set to review them. Helping fill the fundraising void left by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and keeping candidates like Rep. Brandon Williams in office would go a long way toward cementing Stefanik as a leader of the party.