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The plane is ready, the fundraisers are booked: Trump’s VP search comes down to its final days

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NEW YORK (AP) — The future Republican vice presidential candidate’s plane is currently parked in an undisclosed hangar, an empty spot on its fuselage where a decal featuring his or her name will soon be placed.

Fundraisers have been planned.

All that’s left: an announcement from former President Donald Trump unveiling his pick.

Senior advisers and longtime allies insist they still don’t know whom the presumptive GOP nominee will choose to join him on the ticket — with many believing the name is still in flux.

“I haven’t made (a) final decision. But I have some ideas as to where we’re going,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that aired Monday night.

The decision will come at an unprecedented time of upheaval in the presidential race. President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party continue to grapple with his dismal debate performance and the intensifying calls for the 81-year-old president to step aside in favor of a younger candidate.

The Democrats’ crisis has given Trump little incentive to change the subject with a VP announcement that would be sure to draw a flurry of attention and focus.

Trump has also been waiting to see how things shake out with Biden.

“A little bit, you know, we wanted to see what they’re doing, to be honest. Because, you know, it might make a difference,” he told Hannity.

Opportunities to announce

But Trump will have plenty of opportunities this week to ratchet up the speculation about a process that his team has kept extraordinarily close to the vest.

“It could happen anytime this week,” Trump senior adviser Jason Miller said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”

Trump has two rallies planned. The first is scheduled for Tuesday evening at his golf club in Doral, Florida, near Miami. The primetime scheduling and location would seem to provide an ideal opportunity to unveil his pick if it is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami native who is one of his top contenders.

Rubio will be in attendance at the event, according to an adviser familiar with the senator’s plans, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity about the selection process.

On Saturday Trump will travel to the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania for another rally at the Butler Farm Show. The venue, outside Pittsburgh, is not far from the border of Ohio, which is home to Sen. JD Vance, another potential pick.

Also on Trump’s short list is North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who has grown close to the former president since he dropped his own bid for the nomination before voting began.

Trump doesn’t need a rally to unveil his pick. He could simply announce the news on his Truth Social platform at any moment between now and the Republican National Convention, which kicks off in Milwaukee on July 15. Or he could wait until the convention opens to make a grand, onstage curtain reveal reminiscent of his days as the host of the “The Apprentice” reality TV show.

He said Monday the announcement will come “probably a little before the convention, but not much. It could even be during the convention that we’d do it. I’d love to do it during the convention. … It would make it even more exciting.”

Trump has spent months now teasing his choice.

Late last month, before the debate, Trump told NBC News at a campaign stop in Philadelphia that he’d already made a decision.

“In my mind, yeah,” he said.

But less than a week later, he told a local Virginia television station that his decision was still in flux.

“Well I have people in mind. I have so many good people. We have such a deep bench,” he said. “But we’ll be making a decision sometime early convention or before convention.”

The front-runners say they don’t know yet

“(A)nyone telling you they know who or when President Trump will choose his VP is lying unless that person is named Donald J. Trump,” Trump adviser Brian Hughes said in a statement he has issued repeatedly.

That includes the front-runners for the job.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Rubio said he remained in the dark.

“Look, I’ve heard nothing, I know nothing, and you probably know more than I do about it,” he said. “Donald Trump has a decision to make. He’ll make it when he needs to make it. He’ll make a good decision. I know for certain that I will be out there over the next three or four months, working on behalf of his campaign in some capacity.”

He also dismissed questions about whether he has discussed changing his residence from Florida if he’s chosen as “presumptuous.” The Constitution bars the president and vice president from hailing from the same state.

“We’ll confront those issues when they come,” he said. “But we’re not there yet. But we will be soon, one way or the other.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Vance, too, said he has not received news one way or the other: “I have not gotten the call.”

“But most importantly,” he went on, ”we’re just trying to work to elect Donald Trump. Whoever his vice president is — he’s got a lot of good people he could choose from — it’s the policies that worked and the leadership style that worked for the American people.”

A top ally is still pushing for Tim Scott

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime Trump ally, continued to push for his fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate.

“I don’t think he’s decided,” he said, adding that Scott would be a particularly smart choice if Biden were to be replaced at the top of the ticket by Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in the office.

“If I were President Trump, I would make sure I pick somebody that could add value in 2024. Expand the map,” he said.

Biden has insisted he won’t drop out and said only “ the Lord Almighty ” could get him to change his mind.

___ Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.

Associated Press