As Donald Trump prepares to announce his vice presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention next week, the former president seems to have found a potential favorite: Sen. JD Vance of Ohio.

“It looks good,” Trump said of Vance’s signature beard on Fox News radio on Wednesday morning. “He looks like a young Abraham Lincoln.”

According to various media reports, Vance, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota are the top three “finalists” for the job.

“I’ve never heard that word,” Vance told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. “I have not gotten a rose, or trinket, or any other gift. But look, I mean, I have no reason to think that reporting is false. I think that they are narrowing the list down.”

Vance, a freshman Republican senator from Ohio, is the most ideologically aligned with Trump of the trio. He was among the first GOP senators to endorse his 2024 campaign, and he has gone to lengths that few others have gone to defend Trump during his 18 months in the Senate.

However, there is one place where there’s daylight between the two men: The Republican primary in Arizona’s 8th congressional district, where Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters are engaged in perhaps the ugliest GOP primary of the cycle.

Vance endorsed Masters, a friend who shares much of the Ohio senator’s same “New Right” beliefs, in October, several weeks before Trump endorsed Hamadeh. Vance and Masters both ran for Senate in their respective states in 2022 with the financial backing of right-wing tech billionaire Peter Thiel: Vance won his race, while Masters did not.

Vance said on Tuesday that he’s spoken with Trump about the race. “We’ve talked about it,” Vance said. “You know, I endorsed Blake very, very early, before Trump got involved in the race. I mean, Trump knows that Blake’s a friend.”

The campaign has since become ugly, with Masters running ads portraying Hamadeh — an Arab American with a Muslim father — as sympathetic to Islamic terrorists.

“Seems pretty dirty,” Vance said with a laugh. “Unusually messy for a Republican primary where you have a reasonably safe seat.”

Masters has also featured Trump prominently in his campaign materials and ads, despite not having his endorsement. One recent Masters ad notes that Trump endorsed his Senate campaign, prompted accusations that Masters was trying to mislead voters and reportedly spurring a take-down request for Trump campaign manager Susie Wiles.

“Well, he’s trying to win, right?” Vance said when asked what he thought of the way Masters was conducting his campaign. “He’s trying to win, and you’re going to get pretty aggressive sometimes and try to draw contrasts. He has to draw contrasts, he has to give people a reason to vote for him.”

Vance also suggested that he had little issue if Hamadeh, Trump’s preferred candidate, ultimately prevails in the July 30 primary.

“I think you got two good candidates running there, and we’ll see what happens,” Vance said. “They’re going to fight out their primary, and I think we’re going to get a good congressman out of that.”

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