He’s On Trump’s VP Short List. An Interview With GOP Rising Star, Congressman Byron Donalds.

The Florida Congressman shares his thoughts on being a potential VP pick, his insights on Donald Trump's broad appeal, and the shifting political landscape.
Representative Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. US congressional leaders have reached a deal to avoid a March 2 partial government shutdown and fund parts of the government through Sept. 30, lawmakers said. Photographer: Annabelle Gordon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Annabelle Gordon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The following is an edited transcript of a Morning Wire Sunday Extra interview between Daily Wire editor-in-chief John Bickley and Florida Congressman and potential Vice President candidate Byron Donalds.

After winning a congressional seat in 2020, Florida’s Byron Donalds has rapidly risen up the ranks in the Republican Party – and now finds himself at the center of vice presidential speculation. We sat down with the Florida Congressman in our Nashville studio to discuss the Trump Veepstakes – and why he thinks Trump’s message appeals to all Americans, including minority voters.

JOHN: Congressman, thank you for joining us. So look, the latest report out of the AP is that you’re one of the magnificent seven – or eight – being considered for VP. Would you accept that role if Trump asked you to step up and play it?

BYRON: I would. I would accept. We’re at a really interesting point in the country. I think politics in general is shifting, like people are shifting underneath the political parties. You can see where the largest growing party is among independents or non-affiliateds. Demographic groups, racial groups — everybody’s shifting in their political thought. I think we’re at this point in the country where common sense is the true desire, not political ideology. And I think it’s a good thing for America. Secondarily, being a member of the House and having been involved in the legislative process. I think what is an asset to the president is somebody who can make sure the wheels of Congress are moving to get the agenda done and get the agenda across. The third part is, in this environment especially, you’ve got to be able to go campaign and help him get across the line. It would be a great honor, but it’s his decision. He’ll decide what he wants to do. Whatever his decision is, I’m going to support that. I just want to win. I’m a real simple dude. I just want to win, be successful. That’s it.

JOHN: You’ve risen up the ranks really rapidly, gained national attention in a remarkably short number of years. Has it been just four years?

BYRON: This is year four in Congress, yes.

JOHN: So what are the lessons that you’ve learned so far that would help you on the national stage?

BYRON: Lesson number one is, when you know you’re right about something, you cannot give any quarter to the media or to the Left. You have to stand very firm. And there’s a point where you’re standing alone. When you stand firm on what’s right, then people see that and they will rally around you. But if there’s a momentary hesitation, they’re gonna watch to see what you do first. Then, that’s gonna set the tempo for everything else. I think, secondarily, in D.C. in particular, it’s not about the actual bill that gets to the floor, it’s how you seeded the battleground for the bill. Everything that you see happen in the news cycle really started two and three months ago, four months ago, six months ago in its infancy. So, how you prepare for that legislative battle is everything. The votes are really just the culmination and the outcome of all the work that was done before. Those are the two big ones I’ve learned. Third, I think in part I’m helping Republicans. Not president Trump, he’s fine, he doesn’t need me. I think helping Republicans understand that you can go on CNN, you can go on MSNBC, you can do tough interviews. It’s important actually to go and do those tough interviews because there are viewers who watch those channels. They’re Americans. I totally believe they love the country, but they just have never heard a conservative view or they have never heard the Republican view on an issue. Going into those areas is really important for the country going forward.

JOHN: Bursting bubbles in a sense. About that, every four years we hear talk of minorities potentially voting for Republicans. Often it doesn’t happen. We have seen some major shifts with Hispanic voters. Black voters, though, have continued to be sort of a firewall for Democrats. Do you see that changing recently?

BYRON: Yes, I do. It’s because of a couple things. First of all, Joe Biden — I call him the “Master of Disaster.” Everything’s gone wrong in his presidency and people know it, they inherently know it, they instinctively know it. Are they quick to assign blame? That’s the political question. So, I think that in this environment, if we do our jobs, they’re going to correctly see that it is the Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, AOC policy agenda that has failed America. It is failing families all throughout our country, and is failing us overseas on a global scale. I think those voters are now taking a look at their economic prospects. Generational wealth is a big issue for minority voters, for minority people in our country anyway, because they want to be able to have something. They want to be able to build a net worth for their family, build a family business with their kids. And you cannot do that with the Biden agenda. It just does not work. And immigration has been the touchstone that has had those thought processes change, because every city is overwhelmed with illegal immigrants. It is siphoning off some of the programs that were actually just going to American citizens, and it’s being redirected. And people are looking at that and saying, ”Wait a minute. That’s not fair. They’re not even supposed to be here.” And that’s all because of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the policies they put into place. So, I do think you’re going to see that shifting and be accentuated in 2024.

LISTEN: Catch the full interview with Congressman Byron Donalds on Morning Wire

JOHN: It’s a notable insight to say that there’s a convergence of the immigration issue and the economic issue in terms of priorities for voters this year – in a way that we’ve maybe never seen this starkly. And it’s impacting people on every level, including inner city, rural areas. Do you think in the end economics are going to decide this election – or will it be a mishmash of some of the cultural issues?

BYRON: You know the old adage, “It’s the economy, stupid.” I think that part is going to be the main driver. Obviously, the Democrats would love this to be a campaign about abortion or about race. But that’s just not the number one or number two issue — even if you look at some polling, it’s not the economy that’s the number one issue, it’s immigration. Which I think obviously bodes well for President Trump and bodes well for Republicans. As long as we keep that as the focus of what’s happening in 2024 it will do well for Republicans up and down the ballot.

JOHN: How do you feel about Trump’s messaging so far on the issues that matter most to voters? Do you think he’s hitting those priorities adequately?

BYRON: Yes, he is. I think that the message and the message discipline has been the best. He’s focused on all Americans. He’s talking about not just blasting Joe Biden for how terrible he is, but also talking about what he did when he was president and what he’ll do again being the 47th president. And I think that’s important because voters remember the Trump presidency and are now living the Biden presidency. In some respects COVID kind of gave a mental reset of what America looked like with Donald Trump and what America looks like with Joe Biden. You have a real dichotomy that you can measure and look at very clearly. There are clear lines of difference and he has spoken directly to that. I think that has been the most effective messaging. What he’s done is then layer the lawfare on top of that, but the lawfare is not the message. It’s the icing. The cake has been his economic policies, his foreign policy, his handling of foreign issues, his domestic policies, and the deep contrast with Joe Biden and the Democrats. And I believe that message has been very effective. It’s going to continue to be effective. It’s going to bode incredibly well for him.

JOHN: Speaking of lawfare, you went to Manhattan to show solidarity with Donald Trump on this issue. How do you think American voters are going to respond to this series of lawsuits and recent conviction — the first ever for a former president and a leading presidential candidate?

BYRON: I think they were already responding. You don’t raise $70 million in low dollar contributions in two days. Laura Trump was saying that 30% of that were new donors, people who’ve never donated. You don’t do that unless you have a revolting taste in your mouth. The American people know when stuff is not fair. People know when stuff is not right. And what happened in lower Manhattan was a violation of Donald Trump’s constitutional rights. Period. Point blank. So, when people realize that they are just so fixated on getting their political rival, while in Manhattan and in New York there are crimes that are not being prosecuted by Alvin Bragg. Crimes are being taken from felonies down to misdemeanors by Alvin Bragg, but then you want to take some misdemeanor with a statute of limitations and then tie that in with some federal crime that you can’t identify? One that he FEC (the governing jurisdictional body) already said there is nothing here? And you want to make that a felony? People know that stinks. They don’t like it. And this is past politics. Whether you’re a Democrat, an Independent, a Republican, people have their opinions of Donald Trump. They have their opinions of Joe Biden. But they don’t want to see sham, kangaroo court elections in the United States, especially people who have immigrated to the United States over the past 50 years — because they’ve seen this stuff happen in other countries. They don’t want it here. So I think it’s completely backfired on them. Standing with Donald Trump on this was the complete right decision. He is being victimized because he’s Donald Trump and he’s running for president and that’s disgusting. I think the American people see that.

JOHN: There’ve been some pretty damning reports lately about President Biden’s mental fitness. The Wall Street Journal, citing over 40 officials from Capitol Hill, has reported on major concerns about his mental capacity and how it’s diminished. Have you heard similar rumblings – and do you see this impacting the campaign?

BYRON: Oh, I’ve heard the rumblings, no doubt about it, in conversations with Speaker McCarthy, Speaker Johnson. I heard the stories about how he doesn’t do anything without a staff member being in the room. We all see the videos of how he’s looking for directions from off camera. The other day, when he did this immigration executive order, and then at the end of it he looks right and he’s mouthing, “Do I take questions?” And they’re like, “No.” And then he says, “Oh, okay.” That’s not the symbol of strength and leadership that America needs. I’ve seen it. A lot of my colleagues have seen it. During the State of the Union he comes in and he’s running that talk at about 100 miles an hour. Then, once it hits the 30 minute mark, he starts slowing down. I think that’s why you have some people asking if they are giving him something to be able to get through these times where he has to be out there in front? The other thing is, we’ve never seen an American president not be in control of the bully pulpit. Donald Trump had control of the bully pulpit. Barack Obama had control of it. George W. Bush had control of it. Bill Clinton had control of it. Joe Biden’s nowhere to be seen. The only reason why people know he’s president is because Karine Jean-Pierre and Merrick Garland and Tony Blinken do all the talking. You don’t see him talking to the American people a lot unless things get into a crisis mode, which, under his presidency happens every three to four months. There is always some new crisis. I think there’s a legitimate concern about his mental abilities today. Take a look at the last two press conferences. Better yet, watch the debate that’s going to happen on June 27th and compare that to the debates from 2020. Then compare that to the vice presidential debate against Paul Ryan back in 2012. You will see from 2012 to 2020 to 2024 this is a very different Joe Biden. It’s not just about age.

JOHN: Final question. What do you think is not being discussed enough on the national stage in terms of the presidential campaigns right now?

BYRON: The thing that’s not being discussed enough — and that’s because having a discussion typically flows through media sources — is the lack of trust people have in old media. That’s one of the reasons why you’re seeing the shift in public polling. I watch MSNBC, I watch CNN, I watch Fox, I watch them all. And when they go through their polling breakdowns, they’re not apoplectic yet, but they’re like, “Uh oh, what’s going on here? This doesn’t look right.” It’s because I think they still yearn for the days of ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Now, what the Daily Wire has done along with a lot of different outfits, the divergence in media and the divergence in thought process in media is leading to a divergence in political thought amongst the country. That’s a very good thing in my opinion. That’s the thing that’s not been talked about enough. Like Elon buying X. It has been revolutionary in terms of thought actually getting out there for people to truly compare and have debates online or read other pieces of information. The ability for the United States to maintain true freedom of speech is monumental for this presidential election and every other election to follow.

JOHN: Congressman, thank you so much for talking with us.

BYRON: Thank you.


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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  He’s On Trump’s VP Short List. An Interview With GOP Rising Star, Congressman Byron Donalds.