Retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats is not interested in becoming Donald Trump's vice presidential nominee.
Retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats is not interested in becoming Donald Trump's vice presidential nominee.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana’s senior senator, Dan Coats, has openly been skeptical of the notion of Donald Trump as the leader of the free world. He’s never met the reality TV star, though he has tweeted about him, chiding Trump for putting “bombastic rhetoric over sound judgment.”

So, Coats was surprised last week when he found his name floated as Trump’s perfect running mate. As reported in the inside-the-Beltway media outlet, Politico Playbook, by chief political correspondent Mike Allen, Coats is a favorite of unnamed GOP insiders for the job of Trump’s vice president.

“I was as surprised as you, or probably anybody else was,” Coats said.

Coats isn’t a reader of Politico Playbook, an online report that bills itself as the source for the most important political stories of the day. But his staff is. And since Allen is considered one of the best-connected reporters in D.C. – the New York Times described him as “The Man the White House Wakes Up To” – Coats’ staff figured there must be something to it.

Coats spent the morning assuring them that he isn't being vetted for the post, nor is he even interested. To underscore the point, he had his spokesman, Matt Lahr, send out a humorous statement denying the rumor and poking a bit of fun at Trump’s characteristic hyperbole.

“Senator Coats already has yuuuge plans for 2017 — spending the summer at Wrigley Field cheering on the Cubs,” it said.

Putting Coats, a Republican, in the number-two spot isn’t a crazy notion. At 72, he’s retiring from the Senate where he’s served on the Finance and Intelligence committees. He served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Germany. Like retired U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, he’s respected as an elder statesman by his colleagues. He's an Army veteran.

Allen quoted an unnamed, insider source – still unknown to Coats – who described him as “beloved.”

“The man has no enemies. Everyone loves him. He’s a governing choice. Clean as a whistle,” that source said.

Coats’ response: “I don’t know Mike Allen. And I’m not sure where he got his information. But it’s always nice to have someone say something nice about you.” He added: “In this business, that doesn’t happen all that often, particularly these days.”

Coats’ attempt to kill the rumor didn’t prevent some ribbing. At a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing, a note tagged onto his report said: “Daily Briefing for the Vice President.” His Senate colleagues, meanwhile, have asked if he can wrangle Cabinet posts for them, if elected, or maybe a ride on the vice-president's plane, Air Force Two. “There’s been some joking,” he said.

Asked about his opinion of Trump now, the former diplomat in Coats emerges. “He’s our nominee now,” he said. “So the question flips to November. Now, it’s about who do you want running the show for the next four to eight years?"

The election will send someone new to the U.S. Senate from Indiana, but that doesn't mean Coats plans to leave the public scene completely. He is, indeed, a loyal Cubs fan and has been since age 9, when he visited Chicago relatives that summer. He and his wife, Marsha, celebrated their 50th anniversary at a Cubs’ game. “But I don’t think you’ll find me sitting in the stands at Wrigley Field every afternoon or evening,” he said.

He’s yet to decide what he’ll do, though he said, “it’s in my DNA that I’m going to be doing something.”

Apart from swearing off running on a Trump ticket, he is leaving options open. “I’ve deliberately decided not to decide right now,” he said.

Maureen Hayden covers the Indiana Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at mhayden@cnhi.com