Now that the midterms are over, attention is shifting to the 2020 presidential race, and unless Trump is given an orange jumpsuit to wear soon, you can bet that at least some part of his “stable genius” of a brain is contemplating his campaign strategy.
With the focus on the next presidential race, media prognosticators are starting to make their best guesses on how Trump will change his game plan this time around and how he’ll manage to turn his small minority of hard-core supporters into a second electoral college victory.
According to the folks at Vanity Fair, one of the big questions that Trump is currently pondering is whether he should dump Vice-President Mike Pence from the ticket if he survives a primary challenge by some brave Republican traditionalist.
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The president held a 2020 election strategy meeting on Monday with his advisors and one inside source told the magazine that after the Republican rout in the midterms, some advisors are questioning whether Pence will add anything to expand Trump’s base beyond the evangelical right-wingers who are already on board.
Presenting polling results that indicate that Pence won’t be bringing much to the table in that regard, his advisors are “beginning to think about whether Mike Pence should be running again,” according to the source. “He doesn’t detract from it, but he doesn’t add anything either,” he continued.
The new questions about Pence’s political utility come after a New York Times article revealed that Trump has been asking his advisors privately whether he could trust the sycophantic vice-president and that his advisors have been pushing the suggestion of resigning UN Ambassador Nikki Haley as a replacement for the former Indiana Governor.
Advisors who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign (and haven’t been indicted yet for their activities) complain that Trump hasn’t been sufficiently focused on the 2020 race, leading one to wonder what the president knows about his own future that they aren’t aware of.
“What he needs to do is consider his team for 2020 and make sure it’s in place,” one adviser said. “He has to have people on his team that are loyal to his agenda.”
Given Vice-President Pence’s obsequiousness towards his boss, Trump’s sudden questions about his value are another sign that this president has no relationships in his life that aren’t transactional. Trump’s mercurial nature means that he “waxes and wanes on everyone,” as one notable Republican leader commented.
Others point to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as whispering in Trump’s ear that Pence isn’t a political asset to him, perhaps motivated by rumors that Nick Ayers, Pence’s own chief of staff, has been overtly campaigning to take Kelly’s place in the White House pecking order.
“Kelly has started to get more political and he’s whispering to Trump that Trump needs a running mate who can help him more politically,” Vanity Fair‘s source said.
Hopefully, the results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will make all of this speculation moot. Given the week Trump has had so far with revelations of the enormous number of hours of testimony given by both his former lawyer Michael Cohen and his ex-national Security Advisor Michael Flynn to the Special Counsel, not to mention the collapse of Paul Manafort’s plea deal, the chances of Trump surviving to run for a second term are diminishing rapidly.
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Original reporting by Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair.