By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump is taking some of his potential vice presidential running mates out for a test drive this week, meeting in private and trotting them out in public as he seeks to make his choice before the Republican National Convention less than two weeks away.

Republicans close to the campaign say Trump and his team are considering announcing his running mate pick next week ahead of the convention, to be held July 18-21 in Cleveland, to try to get maximum media buzz from the decision.

As his aides vet the people on his short list, Trump is getting an up-close look at some of the candidates and talking about it publicly, dispensing with the usual tradition of keeping secret the process of choosing a running mate.

Trump, who is to be formally nominated at the convention as the Republican candidate for the Nov. 8 election, met privately on Tuesday with one possible pick, U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, at Trump Tower in New York. On Tuesday night, the two appeared together at a Trump rally in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Trump introduced Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as "a great friend of mine, somebody respected by everybody." Then it was Corker's turn.

"I’ve figured out the reason why you love him so much," the senator told the crowd. "The reason you love him so much is because he loves you. He loves you and he wants the best for you."

On Wednesday, Trump is to be joined for an event in Cincinnati by Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who is another possible pick by Trump for the No. 2 position. Gingrich has been a close Trump adviser and is well regarded at Trump Tower.

On Monday, Trump met on Monday with U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, another candidate on his short list.

Others on Trump's running mate list include Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who Trump met with on Saturday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Christie, a former Trump rival for the Republican nomination, and Sessions are among Trump's earliest supporters in the party and closest advisers.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)