President Donald Trump is reportedly asking advisors if Vice President Mike Pence is still loyal to him, prompting many to wonder whether the president is considering replacing Pence as his running mate in 2020.
As The New York Times reports:
"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?"
The buzz reportedly began last week during a press conference after the midterms when Trump was asked if he planned on keeping Pence on the ticket.
“Mike, will you be my running mate?” Trump asked Pence, who nodded affirmatively. “Will you? Thank you. O.K., good,” the president said. “That was unexpected, but I feel very fine.”
But it appears Pence's assurances aren't enough to convince Trump that he holds the confidence of the vice president.
"The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate," the Times noted, "but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone."
Hogan Gidley, the White House deputy press secretary, also denied that Trump wants to drop Pence from the ticket.
"The president absolutely supports the vice president," Gidley said, "and thinks he’s doing an incredible job helping to carry out the mission and policies of this administration.”
And while Trump has reportedly not named his preferred replacement for Pence, one name has popped up in speculation: Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
But some are skeptical.
Haley resigned her post in October and maintains a close relationship with Trump, and nominating her as a running mate could be a tactic to help Trump with women voters.
Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, is a darling of the right, though she has denied any interest in seeking nation's highest office in 2020 - for now.
Twitter loves the drama.
It's always something.
The vice president is the one person Trump cannot fire, which for Trump, must be frustrating.
But Trump's evangelical supporters, whom the president wooed by picking Pence, aren't crazy about the idea.
“Mike Pence is an invaluable asset to President Trump politically, on shaping policy and personnel, and in cementing the epoxy-like bond with evangelicals,” said Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “He is also fiercely loyal, which is the coin of Trump’s realm. The president has said he plans to keep Pence, and that is an infinitely wise decision.
Historically, however, changing up the number two spot on the presidential ticket does not typically cause voters to swing one way or the other, as Dan Pfeiffer, a former communications director for President Barack Obama, points out.
“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.
“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,” Pfeiffer added. “Changing the No. 2 is not going to change that.”
Additionally, Pence has remained a steadfast defender of Trump. Most notably, Pence has urged Special Counsel Robert Mueller to "wrap up" his investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's potential ties to that operation. He has not gone so far as to call the probe a "witch hunt," however, as Trump routinely likes to do.