President Donald Trump and his advisers are weighing whether Vice President Mike Pence should remain on the 2020 ticket amid concerns about Pence’s viability as a galvanizing force for a president in political turmoil.
“He [Pence] doesn’t detract from it, but he doesn’t add anything either,” says one source with knowledge about the meeting who says that a team of advisers presented Trump with new polling data which indicates, as Vanity Fair put it, that Pence does not “expand Trump’s coalition.”
Another source, this one a veteran of Trump’s 2016 campaign, noted that the president has not spent as much time focusing on re-election in 2020 as he should.
“What he needs to do is consider his team for 2020 and make sure it’s in place,” the adviser said. “He has to have people on his team that are loyal to his agenda.”
The news comes as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s subversion of the 2016 presidential election appears to enter its endgame. Last week, the president’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress, saying that he made misleading statements to congressional intelligence committees during testimony detailing his contacts with Russians in 2016. Yesterday, Mueller’s team revealed that Michael Flynn, who briefly served as the president’s national security adviser until he resigned in the wake of the scandal surrounding his communications with the former Russian ambassador to the United States, sat for 19 interviews with the special counsel’s office which gleaned significant insight on the behavior of Trump’s transition team, which Pence headed.
The notoriously thin-skinned Trump, who has often questioned the motives of even his most vocal loyalists, has reportedly also spoken with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has advised him that Pence has little political value to offer the administration.
Last month, The New York Times, citing advisers within the White House, reported that Trump is questioning Pence’s loyalty:
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 Times quoted Dan Pfeiffer, a former communications director for President Barack Obama who says such lines of questioning are common during re-election cycles.
“The idea of changing a ticket has been discussed by at least some aides in every White House and it almost never happens,” Pfeiffer said. He added: “I would also say the electoral significance of the vice-presidential nominee is one of the most overrated things in U.S. politics, particularly in a re-election, which is almost always a referendum on the performance of the president. Changing the No. 2 is not going to change that.”
Neither Pence nor the White House has commented on speculation that he might have used up his utility with the Trump administration. In recent days, Pence has praised the late George H.W. Bush, who died last week at 94, saying he set “the standard for vice presidents.”