An article published by The New York Times on Saturday, August 5th “Republican Shadow Campaign for 2020 Takes Shape as Trump Doubts Grow” created a firestorm at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course, it is not the political norm for members of a sitting President’s party to even consider running against him during his first term in office. But Donald Trump is not a president who has followed political norms. In fact, he glories in breaking many of the norms that have been taken for granted for decades within the halls of power in Washington, D.C.
He is, therefore, in no position to complain if others decide to break with tradition. That does not deter him in any way whatsoever as in his response to this article:
Pence was even stronger in his denunciation of the Times article:
The Times article carefully lays out steps being taken by potential candidates for president, including Mike Pence, the heir apparent. In normal times, Pence would not be laying the groundwork for his own presidential bid until after the 2020 election. But as everyone knows, these are not normal times. The Times reports:
“Pence has been the pacesetter. Though it is customary for vice presidents to keep a full political calendar, he has gone a step further, creating an independent power base, cementing his status as Mr. Trump’s heir apparent and promoting himself as the main conduit between the Republican donor class and the administration.”
Part of that power base includes creating his own PAC “Great America Committee” which has raised more money in disclosed donations that Trump’s own “America First Action.” Early on in the administration there were reports of Pence using his official residence for entertaining major donors and cementing relationships with them.
Not only Pence, but other Republican potential candidates like Senators Ben Sasse and Tom Cotton are beginning to send out signals of their availability. They are meeting with potential donors as well as visiting the key state of Iowa. Again, this would be unheard before the advent of Trump.
While Pence has been obsequious in his public statements of support for, and admiration of, Donald J. Trump, no one should overlook the fact that he is an experienced politician who has an eye out for the main chance. As the Trump administration descends further and further into chaos, as Trump’s approval numbers in every major national poll sinks into the thirty percent range, Pence has to realize that the leadership of the Republican Party may view him as their only possible salvation.
While Pence may be biding his time to make an unprecedented challenge to Trump in 2020, he must also realize that there are three other avenues that might put him in the Oval Office well before that date.
The first would be if the Mueller investigation discovers indictable and impeachable charges against Trump, assuming that Pence also manages to escape similar charges himself. Were Trump to be impeached and convicted, then Pence would become the 46th President of the United States.
The second would be if Trump were to resign, as Richard Nixon did in 1974, when faced with certain impeachment. Then Pence would become the 46th President of the United States.
The third alternative, and one that has been bandied about by numerous political pundits recently, would be if Pence, as Vice President, along with a majority of the Cabinet, were to declare Trump unfit for office under Article 4 of the 25th Amendment. Then Pence would become the Acting President of the United States.
Pence has also seen, up close and personal, the way Trump treats people who are no longer useful to him. He has been present at the revolving door of Trump appointments and firings. He knows that he cannot expect any loyalty or support from the president.
But Pence is also in the enviable position of being the ONLY member of the Trump administration whom Trump cannot fire. Pence was legally elected Vice President and can only be removed from office through impeachment and conviction by Congress. Should Trump suspect any possible disloyalty from his number two man, he could easily sideline Pence – but he can’t get rid of him. Pence would also retain his role in the Senate where he has often cast the deciding vote in Trump’s favor.
It is remarkable that just 200 days into Trump’s administration reports are circulating about possible challengers to his presidency. This speaks volumes about the type of president Trump has been, and no doubt will continue to be. Trump’s obsession with loyalty and the idea that there are people in his administration trying to sabotage him might have some foundation.
As the saying goes “You’re not paranoid if they are really out to get you.”