A new report from Vanity Fair suggests that President Donald Trump and his close aides have "discussed" replacing Vice President Mike Pence on the ballot in 2020 for the president's re-election campaign.
And the top choice for a replacement? Well, perhaps ... Nikki Haley?
"On Monday, Trump hosted a 2020 strategy meeting with a group of advisers. Among the topics discussed was whether Mike Pence should remain on the ticket, given the hurricane-force political headwinds Trump will face, as demonstrated by the midterms," a source reportedly told Vanity Fair's political reporter Gabriel Sherman.
"“They’re beginning to think about whether Mike Pence should be running again,” the source reportedly told Sherman. “He doesn’t detract from it, but he doesn’t add anything either."
Rumors have swirled about Haley possibly replacing Pence since the former stepped down from her position as United Nations ambassador to focus on "other projects" and on her family. With just a few short months to go before the 2020 campaign kicks off in earnest, such a break seemed perfectly timed to give Haley a chance to relax and regroup, publish a book, ready her family for an intense campaign, and then re-emerge with the goodwill she's collected from Republicans during her time handling international foes on a global stage.
But there's a catch: presidents don't typically jettison loyal vice presidents, even if they're no longer a draw on the ticket. Pence was deliberately selected in 2016 to help shore up Trump's wavering support from Evangelicals and other religiously motivated voters — particularly those voters who wanted to believe Trump was the best to represent their interests, but were struggling with Trump's less-than-stellar personal life. Mike Pence gave them that comfort.
But going into 2020, the landscape for Trump has changed. Although GOPers are more bullish on the president now than they were in 2016, political moderates, suburban moms, and single-issue voters have been creeping out of the President's circle. A pick like Nikki Haley might work to bring some of those voters back into the fold (and she'd likely neutralize any female presidential or vice presidential candidate on the Democratic side — almost a guarantee at this point).
Haley is also a more likely candidate to take over for Trump in 2024. Pence may be a good Veep, but he's not widely regarded as "presidential material."
Sherman believes that the issue may boil down to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has been bristling at the thought of being replaced by Pence's 36-year-old Chief of Staff, and may be bending the president's ear with stories of Pence's lack of electoral value.
Vanity Fair, of course, is a better source for gossip and intrigue than political machinations, but there's one thing Sherman's story can't change: Nikki Haley has been meeting with Donald Trump at the White House ahead of her U.N. exit, and the topics of those conversations has been very hush-hush, according to the Washington Examiner (something largely out of character with Trump Administration employee management).
"Outgoing United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley reportedly met with President Trump at the White House on Tuesday," the Examiner reported. "The meeting was not on Trump's public schedule for the day. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment."
Perhaps it may be time for Pence to consider his retirement.