Is Donald Trump Thinking Of Dumping Mike Pence?

Is Donald Trump thinking about dumping Mike Pence in 2020? Probably not, but that's not going to stop the speculation.

The New York Times is reporting that President Trump is apparently questioning the loyalty of the most obsequious member of his Administration:

President Trump’s post-midterm election news conference at the White House last week took a surprising turn when a reporter asked about locking down his 2020 ticket.

“Mike, will you be my running mate?” Mr. Trump asked Vice President Pence, who stood up, raised his hand, and nodded.

“Will you? Thank you. O.K., good,” the president said. “That was unexpected, but I feel very fine.”

But in private Mr. Trump is apparently not feeling so fine. In recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, Mr. Trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him. In one conversation after another he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Mike Pence loyal?

Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.

The answers Mr. Trump gets to his question have varied, depending on whom he asks.

Within the White House, most people he has talked to have assured the president that Mr. Pence has been a committed soldier, engaging in activities that Mr. Trump has eschewed, such as traveling to Hawaii to receive the remains of veterans of the Korean War, or visiting parts of the globe that Mr. Trump has avoided.

But some Trump advisers, primarily outside the White House, have suggested to him that while Mr. Pence remains loyal, he may have used up his utility. These advisers argue that Mr. Trump has forged his own relationship with evangelical voters, and that what he might benefit from more is a running mate who could help him with female voters, who disapprove of him in large numbers.

Others close to the president believe that asking about Mr. Pence’s loyalty is a proxy for asking about whether the vice president’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is trustworthy. Mr. Trump has been considering making Mr. Ayers the White House chief of staff to replace John F. Kelly, the retired Marine general — a decision several White House officials say has been with the encouragement of his adult children. But the president has put off making a decision for now.

The conversations were described in interviews with nearly a dozen White House aides and others close to Mr. Trump. But Hogan Gidley, the deputy press secretary, disputed that Mr. Trump had any misgivings, saying, “The president absolutely supports the vice president and thinks he’s doing an incredible job helping to carry out the mission and policies of this administration.”

Mr. Trump has never completely forgotten that during the 2016 campaign Mr. Pence issued a disapproving statement the day after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was made public, on which the president was heard making comments boasting about grabbing women’s genitals.

But Mr. Trump has kept close counsel about whether he is seriously considering making a change to the ticket, or simply poll-testing advisers as the campaign begins. And few advisers believe he would really go through with it.

Trump responded to all of this on Twitter:

Admittedly, it’s not unusual for there to be at least some discussion inside a White House about replacing a Vice-President in advance of a re-election bid. Prior to the 2012 election, there was at least some discussion among pundits that advisers to President Obama had at least talked about the idea of replacing Vice-President Biden for the 2012 election. Inevitably, the name that most commonly came up as a potential replacement for Biden was Hillary Clinton, something I wrote about hereherehereherehere, and here. However, it was also reported that President Obama himself quickly shut that speculation down and made clear that Biden would remain on the ticket, and as his Vice-President, as long as Biden still wanted the job. There were also some reports about similar speculation regarding Vice-President Cheney prior to the 2004 election, but again nothing came of what may have been nothing more than idle Washington gossip based on little more than the fact that Cheney and Biden were older than their respective Presidents who were brought on to the ticket to provide a gravitas that, arguably, was no longer necessary. In addition to the possibility that the questions about Pence could, in reality, be a proxy for questions about whether or not Nick Ayers would make a good replacement for John Kelly, that is likely all this is about.

What’s notable about this report, which appeared yesterday in The New York Times, is that it comes just a few days after conservative writer Matt K. Lewis wrote in The Daily Beast replace Pence with soon-to-be-former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that Trump should ahead of the 2020 election:

I am not saying this move would be prudent. What I am saying is that there’s a non-zero chance Trump will replace Mike Pence on the ticket in 2020. Aside from ostensibly giving a new demographic bloc a reason to turn out and vote, the move would generate much-needed excitement. Just think of how much Trump would enjoy “interviewing” potential replacements—and then rolling out his idea at the 2020 Republican National Convention (the equivalent of The Show in baseball).

Of course, just like most of Trump’s strategies, deception is vital. For this plan to work, Mike Pence would have to go along with it. (There is no reason he should want to go along with this plan, but when has he ever stood up to Trump?) Pence would need a reason to bow out, so that Trump (ever conscious of his image) doesn’t look weak or desperate. Trump wouldn’t want to imply that he needs a McCain-Palin-esque game changer to win reelection.

(…)

ho should be Trump’s new apprentice?

Assuming Democrats nominate Brown, how about Ohio’s Governor-elect Mike DeWine? Brown positions Democrats to win Ohio. DeWine neuters that. Since LBJ delivered Texas to Jack Kennedy in 1960, the notion that a running mate can guarantee a state has been dubious. However, if it can be done, DeWine (a former U.S. House member, U.S. senator, lieutenant governor, and state attorney general) might be up for the job.

A better move, in my opinion, would be Nikki Haley.

A former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, Haley is certainly qualified. What is more, she would reassure Reagan conservatives (who would be excited to see her as the 2024 heir apparent) and could simultaneously appeal to suburban soccer moms. In this era of identity politics, Trump might relish the idea that he ultimately elevated the first woman (an Indian-American, to boot) to the vice presidency.

In light of the midterm election results, Trump should want to make some sort of strategic change.

As I said, speculation about a President changing Vice-Presidents midstream is not unusual, and we’ll probably see more pieces like the Times article and the column that Lewis wrote as we get closer and closer to the 2020 election. At the same time, though, it’s worth noting that, while such speculation is not rare, actually acting on it is quite historically rare. The last time as sitting Vice-President was changed prior to an election was before the 1976 election when President Ford announced that his running mate would be Kansas Senator Bob Dole rather than Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller. In that case, though, the change was due as much to the fact that Rockefeller was the one who offered to withdraw when it became apparent that Ford was facing a significant intra-party challenger from the right in the form of Ronald Reagan.

Prior to that, the last change to a running mate had occurred in 1944 when Vice-President Henry Wallace was replaced as Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate in 1944, although in that case, we have learned that the change was made largely at the request of Democratic Party insiders concerned by the fact that FDR’s failing health could mean Wallace becoming President. Previously, of course, Wallace had replaced John Nance Garner, who had served as Roosevelt’s Vice-President for his first two terms in office. Prior to FDR, the only previous examples of a change in running mate occurred under Presidents Grant (when Vice-President Schuyler Colfax was replaced by Vice-President Henry Wilson), President Lincoln (when Hannibal Hamlin was replaced by Andrew Johnson in 1864), and Thomas Jefferson (when Aaron Burr was replaced by George Clinton). This list, of course, does not include the handful of occasions prior to the ratification of the 25th Amendment when a Vice-President died in office or resigned as John C. Calhoun had under President Jackson. In other words, while not unprecedented, the replacement of a Vice-President is exceedingly rare in the modern era. If Trump took this step, regardless of who he selected to replace Pence, it would likely be seen as a sign of weakness and desperation.

Rather then speculate about why Trump would replace Pence and who that replacement might be, it occurs to me that the better way of looking at this is to ask what, exactly, the benefit would be of replacing the Vice-President halfway through an Administration, Unlike the Biden and Cheney situations, there’s no question about age here given the fact that Pence is younger than Trump and would still be fairly young in 2024 to serve as an heir apparent if he chose to run for President. Additionally, unlike someone like Dan Quayle, there’s no real question that Pence has been any kind of an albatross for the Administration such that replacing him would be considered politically necessary. Finally, notwithstanding the fact that Trump does have his own relationship with the evangelical voters that Pence arguably attracts to the ticket, it’s still arguably the case that dumping him midstream would be seen by many as a sign of weakness on the part of a President who is already in a weak position and who is likely to remain there the closer we get to the 2020 election.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Pence has his own power base in the administration, and Trump may not like that — especially if Pence is trying to set himself up as the successor.

    He needs to find someone more loyal. How about Jared Kushner? Or Ivanka?

  2. becca says:

    How many degrees of separations between Pence and George Conway? Trump prolly has reason to be paranoid here. Has Trump outlived his usefulness to the GOP PTB?

    Conspiring minds want to know.

  3. Scott says:

    If there is one theme to this administration is that it is filled with people who fail upward. Trump, of course, is number one. Pence, who was about to be unelected Governor of Indiana, is another. Mark Whitaker, the new Attorney General, is a classic failing upward.

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  4. dennis says:

    Nikki Haley wouldn’t be such a fool to hitch herself so closely to Trump and accept that invitation. She’d be much more successful to primary the Moron-in-Chief, and secure the GOP nomination herself. Depending on whom she chose as a running mate, I’d vote for her. I see no one in the Democratic party whom I’d vote for right now.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    Silly to question Pence’s loyalty. He’s just as loyal as one would expect from a career politician who believes god and Charles Koch both want him to be prez. Which is to say Pence won’t strike at the king unless he can kill the king. (Koch’s operatives, behind the scenes, however…)

  6. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think Trump would prefer Ivanka, don’t you?

  7. dazedandconfused says:

    My guess is a Mike Pence is a creature that a Don Trump has difficulty comprehending. A Pence is a joiner, he is a devout Bible thumper, and thereby programmed to surrender to authority. A Trump is utterly self-interested.

    Certainly Trump has learned a bit of leery-ness towards any who enter his circle and behave as total suck-ups. That’s the way he worms his own way into situations when he can screw people over. In Trump’s mind it is somewhat likely that a Mike Pence must be either a snake in the grass or stupid.

    Trump’s been mighty testy about that investigation of late. He may be thinking of bunkering up. Everybody close? Loyalty must be questioned.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A better move, in my opinion, would be Nikki Haley.

    A former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, Haley is certainly qualified. What is more, she would reassure Reagan conservatives (who would be excited to see her as the 2024 heir apparent) and could simultaneously appeal to suburban soccer moms. In this era of identity politics, Trump might relish the idea that he ultimately elevated the first woman (an Indian-American, to boot) to the vice presidency.

    Conservatives are so shallow, just don’t get it. What pray tell, would Nikki Haley bring to the ticket that would negate in any way shape or form who and what the pvssy grabber in chief is, and the policies he pursues?

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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    In Trump’s mind it is somewhat likely that a Mike Pence must be either a snake in the grass or stupid.

    For once, trump and I might be in agreement.

  10. Teve says:

    The Week:

    Trump reportedly loves mocking Sean Hannity

    November 15, 2018

    Trump truly does like Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and willingly grants him interviews that pander to the president’s agenda. But when the duo isn’t on camera or enjoying a late-night phone call, sources tell The Daily Beast, Trump makes fun of Hannity for asking “dumb” questions that make the host look like a sycophant.

    The three people The Daily Beast talked to asked to remain anonymous because, as one put it, Hannity is a “perfectly nice guy.” But he’s too nice to Trump — and the president easily gets sick of it. Trump has often “zero[ed] in on the low-quality laziness of the host’s questions,” The Daily Beast details, once mocking Hannity’s voice and complaining that his “softball” interviews weren’t very fun. One source even “recalled a round of ripping on the TV talker’s interview style and cloying devotion to Trump that lasted long enough that the source glanced at their watch and started feeling sorry for Hannity.”

    Everybody who supports trump winds up humiliated.

  11. James Pearce says:

    @dennis:

    She’d be much more successful to primary the Moron-in-Chief, and secure the GOP nomination herself.

    I’ve long suspected Nikki Haley was going to be our “First Woman President/Vice President.” And while I agree it would be foolish for her to team up with Trump, she’s done it before.

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  12. dennis says:

    @James Pearce:

    I wouldn’t call it “teaming up” as much as I’d call it signing on to beef up her international/ foreign policy creds. If she was down with the team, she would’ve stayed on, much like Nielsen is hanging on, to her shame. No, Haley stayed long enough to get some international bonafides, and bounced at the proper time. She played the M-in-C well. Haley knows the game, knows the federal and state players, and demonstrates an independent character. I, for one, hope she primaries Trump and gets the nomination.

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  13. Kathy says:

    We all know El Cheeto’s ideal VP is David Dennison.

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  14. Mister Bluster says:

    @Gustopher:..How about Jared Kushner? Or Ivanka?
    @CSK:..I think Trump would prefer Ivanka, don’t you?

    Maybe…
    Melania is now top Trump – Ivanka should sleep with one eye open

    Trump Reportedly ‘Blindsided’ By Melania Calling For Aide’s Ouster, Complained He Looked Like a ‘Bossed Around Husband’ MEDIAite

    All Pud needs to do is delete “No Person except a natural born Citizen,” from Article II, Section 1, Par. 5 of “the supreme Law of the Land” with the stroke of his pen so she can run for President.

    When you have them by the balls, their Hearts and Minds will follow!
    is the slogan made for her campaign.

  15. Kylopod says:

    Last year it was reported that in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood fiasco in 2016, Pence was involved in serious talks to have Trump replaced at the top of the ticket.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/mike-pence-priebus-coup-replace-trump-access-hollywood-tape-2017-12

    Of course Pence isn’t loyal. He’s a Machiavellian type who’s hitched himself to Trump to advance his own goals.

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @dennis:

    I wouldn’t call it “teaming up” as much as I’d call it signing on to beef up her international/ foreign policy creds.

    And how much beefing up of her I/ FPCs did she do in trump’s team while shitting on our allies and sucking up to dictators everywhere? Really, trumpista’s don’t give a rat’s ass about “foreign policy creds”. Foreign policy creds are for pvssies, and for those of us who care about such things, trump and his admin are the antithesis of such things.

    Seriously, I have nothing against NH on a personal basis, tho plenty on a policy basis (conservatives aren’t bad or evil people, they’re just wrong ). ( 😉 ) I just don’t see time in the trump admin pushing trump’s “FP” objectives as being a positive reflection of her judgement.

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  17. James Pearce says:

    @dennis:

    Haley knows the game, knows the federal and state players, and demonstrates an independent character. I, for one, hope she primaries Trump and gets the nomination.

    I’d be okay with that too.

    I’m not sure she would do that, though. I’m not sure she’d sign on for 2020 either, but I can see her taking over in, say, 2022 to finish out the second term and prep herself for a 2024 run as Trump’s heir apparent. I can see her going that route.

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  18. Leonard says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Republicans know they can beat a woman iwth two straight white males. They don’t need Haley as an Indian woman, and they don’t think of her as one. She’s smarter and more experienced than Pence, ant that’s why they like her.

  19. Mister Bluster says:

    @Leonard:..Republicans know they can beat a woman iwth two straight white males.

    Now that the Republicans have won with a genuine sexual pervert they think they can win with anyone.

  20. JohnMcC says:

    @Leonard: You have proof that VP Pence is heterosexual, then? What if there were some reason to doubt that?

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Leonard: Conservatives like her. Republicans on the other hand…

  22. Leonard says:

    “Now that the Republicans have won with a genuine sexual pervert they think they can win with anyone.”

    Yes.

    “You have proof that VP Pence is heterosexual, then? What if there were some reason to doubt that?”

    Trump and Pence ran as straight white males. Who knows if they are?

    “Conservatives like her. Republicans on the other hand…”

    elected her twice?

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Leonard: She won in the specific electorate of pre-trump South Carolina. Maybe she could do it on a national stage, but I have great doubts she could nationalize that feat in today’s racist, misogynistic, Republican party.

    But that’s really beside the point I was making, isn’t it?

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Wouldn’t it depend who showed up on the other side ? (Hillary Clinton redux, cough cough)

    (If the nattering on about her wanting to run again is in fact true, someone should gently take her aside and point out OH GOD NO!!!)

  25. Leonard says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: What point were you trying tomake?

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Leonard: There are no conservatives left in the Republican party.

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist: Everything depends on everything else. But for NH to get the GOP nomination, I think the first necessity is that no white males are also running. The bias is very strong there.

  28. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: :(If the nattering on about her wanting to run again is in fact true, someone should gently take her aside and point out OH GOD NO!!!)”

    Oh, for God’s sake, you are too smart and too politically sophisticated to be falling for this bored-pundit-clickbait. Hillary is not going to run again, and if for some reason — say, Alzheimers — she forgot all about her previous experiences and decided to jump in, she’d be out after the second primary.

    There are real problems in the world right now. Don’t be fooled into obsessing about something so obviously phony.

  29. dennis says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Maybe she could do it on a national stage, but I have great doubts she could nationalize that feat in today’s racist, misogynistic, Republican party

    I’m thinking, depending upon the Democratic nominee and running mate, she may get a lot of crossover votes. I can see that happening if the Democrats nominate Elizabeth Warren, or a Corey Booker, which would be a dumbass move. Of course, I could be wrong.

  30. dennis says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    But for NH to get the GOP nomination, I think the first necessity is that no white males are also running. The bias is very strong there.

    I’ll concede that point. I mean, let’s be realistic here, no?

  31. Leonard says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oh. That’s wrong. So is your “racist, misogynistic” thing. If you don’t want to understand your opponents, fine, but you’wre wrong.

  32. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Everything depends on everything else. But for NH to get the GOP nomination, I think the first necessity is that no white males are also running. The bias is very strong there.

    That’s most likely. But it would be a mistake to think that an American woman of Indian descent can be neither racist nor misogynistic.

  33. Gustopher says:

    @Leonard: There is a wing of the Republican Party that wants to prove they are not the racist party. Most hardcore racists are Republicans, but most Republicans are not hardcore racists, and a lot of them resent being associate with the hardcore racists.

    (The moderate racists are spread through both parties, although some research shows them breaking more for Republicans)

    In the last two nomination cycles we had significant boomlets for Ben Carson and Herman Cain, despite the fact that they were completely unqualified. An actually qualified brown person might do very well in the primaries. And it could set up a realignment of the Republican coalition that would only be good for America.

    On the other hand, Bobby Jindal flamed out and he had been a governor, so it’s not a sure thing. But, he was kind of a twit. Or maybe Indian doesn’t count.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Leonard:

    If you don’t want to understand your opponents, fine, but you’re wrong.

    Maybe you have not been paying attention to what they are doing in DC. They want to make a bonfire of the Federal govt. Whatever else that might be, it is NOT conservative.

    @Kathy: I do not discount that possibility, I just doubt that the base voter of the GOP, the 27%, will trust her to be racist and misogynistic enough.

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: The thing about the GOP isn’t that they are all racists, it’s that every single one of them who voted for trump said in effect, “I’m OK with a corrupt, racist, misogynistic, narcissist in the White House.”

    Every single one of those qualifiers was on open display long before trump rode down the escalator. By the end of the campaign the only way they could not know it is they were idiots.

  36. JohnMcC says:

    @Leonard: “(R)an as straight white male…” Gosh, I thought you informed the board that you had some sort of knowledge. Turns out you don’t.

  37. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    On the other hand, Bobby Jindal flamed out and he had been a governor, so it’s not a sure thing.

    Jindal left Louisiana in such a sorry state that a Democrat was elected as his successor. It’s hardly surprising he didn’t gain much traction in the presidential contest. He was LA’s equivalent of Sam Brownback.

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I think she brings “Trump’s not as bad as I might imagine/is moderating/maturing” to the ticket in ways that Pence (who, after all is a complete toady) simply cannot. Additionally, she brings the “finally a good looking babe in office” element so important to the cohort that is old geezers of my vintage on the right. Finally, she’s “the really-honest-to-gosh moderate” that guys like Hal and James can hang onto for another round of Trump impeachment fantasies. They can really believe that she’d be different, maybe even enough to vote for him this time.

    ETA: “Everybody who supports trump winds up humiliated.” This is the reason that she might not jump, but she’s escaped humiliation for being UN Ambassador, so she may not have learned. Hard to know what she might do. On the other hand, the fact that it might be an intelligent move argues against Trump doing it.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: So he’s no better at Machiavellianing than he is at governoring. Good to know.