In the time since voting in the midterm elections concluded, President Donald Trump has pushed Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of his team, and there’s been talk of him pushing others out, like White House chief of staff John Kelly and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Now, there’s another name on the table — Vice President Mike Pence.
The New York Times reports that behind the scenes, in a flood of post-midterms anxiety, the president has repeatedly questioned Pence’s loyalty in conversations with associates.
‘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 question has a growing acute relevance as the next presidential election gets closer. Just this past week, at his post-midterms press conference, a reporter asked the president if he planned on keeping Pence on as his running mate going into the 2020 elections. He acted as though he was, but it’s not as though there’s been a formal announcement to that effect from the White House.
Ironically enough, at that same press conference, a reporter asked if Trump planned to keep the then still in office Jeff Sessions on the job, but he deflected. Within hours, Sessions had submitted his resignation letter, making clear in the first line that he was doing so at the president’s bidding.
That drastic of a change for Pence remain seemingly farther out for now. Pence has worked to support Trump at a number of public relations junctures, including after the recent Pittsburgh synagogue attack when he defended the president’s incessant violent rhetoric.
The questions about his “loyalty” (a concept Trump has long valued, pressing the long ousted FBI Director James Comey over it) could, to be sure, figure into his reported consideration of Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers to replace John Kelly.
According to The Times‘ conversations with a dozen administration officials, it’s not off the table. Some of the president’s advisers have reportedly praised Pence, while others have suggested he’s outlived his usefulness since, they claim, Trump has managed accomplishments like his own connections with the evangelical Christian community that Pence has a foot in. According to research, 7 out of 10 white evangelicals who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party are leaning towards choosing Trump over any other possible Republican candidate come 2020.
Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley asserted unsurprisingly blandly:
‘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.’
Whether Trump can even manage a 2020 election victory, with or without Pence, is a different story. His approval rating among Republicans remains wildly high, while it’s wildly low among Democrats and in the 30s, roughly, among independents.
Who among the Democrats will actually rise to challenge him remains itself a wildly open question. Options range from U.S. Senators like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker to former Obama administration official Julian Castro.
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