Republican front-runner Donald Trump, holding a commanding double-digit lead in the latest South Carolina poll, is already exploring potential running mates and has not ruled out naming one before the GOP convention, according to the New York billionaire’s campaign co-chairman.

Sam Clovis, Trump’s national co-chairman, told Boston Herald Radio yesterday the campaign has already started to look at suggestions for vice-presidential candidates he could name early.

“We need to look as far and as wide as possible because we may find a jewel out there that may not be completely obvious,” Clovis said.

“If you go into this with a popular notion or the person who gets percolated up by the establishment, or you have other people who are part of the establishment push particular individuals, what they are trying to do is shore up a flank of their own rather than doing what’s best for the country,” Clovis said.

Trump has taken hard shots at most of his opponents during the contentious GOP campaign, but Clovis would not rule out two of his most frequent targets — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — as possible running mates.

“You can draw your own conclusions, that’s what you guys get paid to do, I get paid to do something else, I’m sorry,” he said, laughing.

Clovis also did not rule out the idea of naming a running mate before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

“I would say that is not an unreasonable thing to examine as a possibility,” he said. “I would not say it is likely, but I would say it’s a possibility. Some candidates have toyed with the idea of naming possible cabinet members.”

Clovis also pointed out the risk in naming running mates early, exposing them to added public and media scrutiny as well as flak from other candidates.

A conservative activist, Clovis said he and other top Trump staffers have also received “hundreds” of suggestions for a potential Supreme Court appointee to replace the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, assuming Senate Republicans successfully block an appointment by President Obama.

Asked whether the group has started to brainstorm choices, Clovis said “certainly.”

‘When we have our time together, we talk to our friends who are part of the legal establishment,” he said. “As you can imagine … we get a lot of input. At the end of the day, this is not the issue we need to focus on right now. We have four days to the South Carolina primary.”

Speaking of South Carolina, a CNN/ORC poll released yesterday has the trash-talking billionaire leading Cruz, 38-22 percent, in the Palmetto State. Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio polled at 14 percent, while Bush finished in fourth at 10 percent.

But Trump’s lead came with a warning. The poll was conducted both before and after Saturday’s debate: he held 40 percent support prior to the debate, according to the survey, but just 31 percent afterward — a possible indicator that his over-the-top putdowns, targeted largely at Bush and Cruz, may have turned off some Trump backers.

But the real-estate mogul and former reality TV star also holds a big lead among white evangelical voters in South Carolina — a demographic expected to be Cruz’s stronghold — 42-23 percent over the Texas senator.

Also yesterday, popular South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she may not endorse anyone before the primary, but went out of her way to insist if she does, it won’t be Trump who represents “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president,” she said.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.


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