Not counting his die hard dead-enders, everyone can see that Donald Trump is in big reelection trouble. The one thing keeping Trump afloat—the economy he inherited from President Obama—has been sabotaged with Trump’s own reckless trade wars and his trillion dollar deficits. Meanwhile, Trump’s obvious mental deterioration has just made his erratic behavior even more bizarre. Trump’s own polling has him losing in every swing state to each major Democratic presidential candidate.
White women overwhelmingly broke for Trump in 2016, but they backed Democratic and Republican candidates evenly in 2018, according to CNN exit polls. When only factoring for gender, but not race, however, those same polls indicate that women voted blue by a whopping 19% margin. The Russians are going to have to work overtime to save his ass next year. Meanwhile, Democrats not only have a slew of top tier candidates to choose from, we have top tier vice candidates as well. Imagine pairing Kamala Harris with Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourke. How about Elizabeth Warren with Juliá Castro? If we go with Joe Biden, imagine the powerhouse ticket if he brings Warren or Harris aboard? The point here is that any Democrat veep will round out the ticket and bring a slew of new supporters into the fold, and possibly even put a key state into play. They bring something to the table.
What the hell does Mike Pence bring? Who has ever said, “I don’t like Trump, but I’ll vote for him now that he has Pence.”
The idea, originally, was that Pence would help smooth things over with evangelicals, since Trump was a two-timing, pornstar-cheating, swearing, daughter-lusting, casino-promoting, non-pious, hateful dumpster fire of sin. Yet no one foresaw that evangelicals would surrender so easily and completely to the golden calf they all claimed to fear.
Others who pushed Pence thought that he might be the “adult in the room” to help restrain his worst impulses. Again, they were shocked to learn how submissive Pence has become.
Meanwhile, former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who everybody seems certain wants to be president, fancies herself a game changer.
She’s not only seen as tougher than Pence, but her mere presence, she believes, can stem the bleeding from suburban women. Even if she didn’t win on a Trump ticket, being on the GOP presidential team next year would mean she would be first in line for 2024. She could claim that she is loved by conservatives, the declining moderate GOP faction, AND the Trump fanatics. She would argue that she would be best suited to carry out the GOP’s hateful attacks on women and minorities because she is a woman and minority. It would be win-win for her and the GOP, and a lose for everyone else.
The problem is that Trump is too stupid to play ball, and has no intention of replacing his loyal lapdog. Trump also refuses to believe any polls that show him in serious trouble. What was Haley to do?
The first step was to plant an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal asking Trump to kick Pence aside and bring on Haley. (Pence’s aides believe it was Nikki Haley, or an ally, who wrote the article.) The next step was to have friends clumsily raise the rumor of being a replacement, specifically to certain people in Trump’s orbit. This spilled out in the Twitterverse. In response to Haley’s criticism of Trump’s horrific critique of Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings earlier this month, Kellyanne Conway tweeted out the phrase “Trump-PENCE2020” … with Pence in all caps.
With time running out, Haley decided to go public by putting a bug directly in Trump’s ear. So she made clear what she wanted, by claiming she wanted the exact opposite.
This was a scheme so transparent that even Trump supporters called her out on what she was doing:
Although she did succeed in getting Trump’s attention, it wasn’t how she wanted. Trump made it clear that he’s Team Pence and let his irritation with the former ambassador be known.
Despite Haley’s proclamation that she’s friends with Pence, the two actually despise each other—even more so now. At a donor retreat last week that both Haley and Pence attended, they were cold towards each other, and both refused to address the other in their speeches, despite acknowledging other prominent people in attendance.
I don’t think at this point anything could save Trump—not even a new vice president.
Also, as Dana Houle points out, it was never likely that a woman born Nimrata Randhawa and whose dad wore a turban would ever be on the GOP ticket.
However, I certainly do believe that a Trump-Haley ticket would have been a much stronger one than Trump-Pence. Yet thanks to her bungling, she ensured that if it ever was even a remote possibility, it is now completely off the table. All she got out of this was my enjoyment of seeing another Trump sycophant fall flat on their face.