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Donald Trump is doing his "Apprentice" thing and publicly auditioning candidates for vice president. One exception: Nikki Haley is nowhere to be found. No sooner did Axios report that Haley was being considered than Trump issued a personal statement this weekend that she's out of the running. Trump at least said he wishes her well, but rejecting her doesn't solve his main campaign problem of appealing to Haley voters.

Vice presidents are rarely decisive in presidential elections, but they can matter for governing and the country's future. This year the VP choice may matter more than usual on all of those counts. If Trump wins he'd be an immediate lame duck who can serve only one term. He turns 78 in June, and he'd be the second-oldest president after the current one.

Mike Pence was an excellent choice in 2016 as an experienced, steady hand who also reassured social conservatives. He helped to populate the first Trump administration with talented policy experts. On Jan. 6, he stood up to Trump's bullying and put the Constitution ahead of his own ambition.

Trump needs a comparably reassuring choice this year to win over the suburban, college-educated and women voters who cost him re-election in 2020. They're still giving Haley upwards of 20% in the GOP primaries, though she long ago ended her campaign.

Haley ought to be in the VP mix given her strong primary performance. She outlasted everyone but Trump and did well in debates. She has foreign-policy experience and was a two-term governor of South Carolina. She'd provide a notable contrast in competence and charisma to Vice President Kamala Harris.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump can't accept someone with strong views of her own, which would rule out Haley. That's probably the safest bet, and Haley hasn't endorsed him. But choosing a strong woman would be surprising enough that it might cause skeptical swing voters to take another look at the former president. The MAGA diehards would howl, but they aren't going to stay home or vote for President Joe Biden.

This assumes Haley would accept the VP offer, which carries more risk for her than for Trump. A second Trump term is likely to be as chaotic and divisive as the first, with Democrats implacably opposed to everything. Second terms are rarely a success, and the VP would go down with the ship. Then again, few people turn down the chance to be so close to power.

Who else could unite the party by reassuring Haley voters? A strong and logical choice would be Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has shown he can win and govern in a swing state. He's smart, likable and a conservative who is impossible for the left to portray as crazy. He'd signal that Trump realizes he can't win with MAGA alone. The Trump campaign is boasting that it will target Virginia this year, and if that's more than spin Youngkin can help.

Of those at Trump's recent VP pageant at Mar-a-Lago, few stand out. One who does is North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who would be an adult in White House councils. He was a success as an entrepreneur and understands markets and global economic competition. He's not flashy, but Trump needs mature.

Another outside-the-Beltway choice would be Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has cut taxes and taken political risks to pass universal school choice in Iowa. She hasn't withstood the rigors of national scrutiny, which is always a risk, especially on foreign policy. And Trump may not forgive her for endorsing Ron DeSantis in the Iowa caucuses.

The biggest question is whether Trump wants his VP choice to expand his coalition or be a MAGA echo. Most of those on the stage behind him at Mar-a-Lago wouldn't appeal to the Haley voter. Tulsi Gabbard has been courting Trump, but the former Democrat's isolationism should be a deal-breaker. She denounced Trump's first-term assassination of Iranian killer Qasem Soleimani.

Republicans are increasingly confident they can win this year, but the presidential race is still in the margin of error. Trump's choice as VP is an opportunity to showcase a contrast to Harris, who could become resident if Biden wins. Trump needs Haley voters, whether or not he chooses Haley.