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Report: Republicans question Mike Pence’s future as Trump’s successor in 2024
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Vice President Mike Pence has remained fiercely loyal to his boss throughout two years of political turmoil, but will that be enough to be voted Trump’s successor?
Some Republicans say that Pence hasn’t done enough to build his own base of support to mount a presidential bid, and his traditional politics could make him a misfit in the era of Trump, according to the Washington Examiner.
With Pence falling short of shoo-in status, other Trump allies have shown interest in mounting a 2024 bid that could short-circuit the traditional line of succession.
Pence is no shoo-in
Comparatively quiet, conventional, and deeply Christian, Vice President Mike Pence cuts a sober figure when juxtaposed with his tempestuous boss, and he has rarely wavered from backing him. In terms of the traditional playbook, Pence has done everything right to win him the title of successor. But the game has changed now, and “party insiders” aren’t convinced that his tireless defense of the president will be enough.
“He has to prove he can stand the big spotlight in a primary to be trusted as the nominee in the general election. It’s nothing personal, just political prudence,” a Republican presidential hopeful told the Washington Examiner anonymously.
Ironically, the big reason for Pence’s woes might be Trump himself. Some say that Pence’s more traditional Republican alignment could be a problem for him now that the GOP has received Trump’s populist imprint.
The 45th president has changed the Republican party — some say permanently — having awakened widespread populist anger at the left and the Republican establishment. Trump’s base is fiercely loyal and quick to overlook his indiscretions, making the virtues of a humble gentleman like Pence far from an obvious advantage. As a surrogate of Trump, Pence enjoys popularity with the base, but he doesn’t exactly cut the figure of an “America First” insurgent.
“His problem is that while, obviously, he’s attached to Trump as his vice president, on a policy level there will likely be other candidates who better represent the Trump ‘America First’ base,” a Republican operative and Trump supporter said.
If not Pence, then who?
Pence’s austere, Christian image makes for a stark contrast with his high-rolling boss, and he has faced criticism for supporting a “porn star president” despite his religious beliefs, a now-familiar — some might say tired — criticism levied against traditional conservatives who back the president. Pence’s traditional beliefs — branded hateful by the left, who attacked Joe Biden for calling his successor a “decent guy” — have also prompted some on the left to wonder if he is an insurance policy against impeachment of a president who, though aggressive, can be unfocused and guided by caprice rather than deep-rooted Christian morals.
It doesn’t help matters that Pence is expected to fill the shoes of a norm-shattering commander-in-chief. Trump upended party king making protocol when he denied Jeb Bush, the crown prince of the GOP in 2016, the party’s nomination in a brutal rebuke to the establishment.
With that as background, it’s far from clear that Trump’s number two will easily take up the party mantle in 2024. “I don’t think these days there’s a coronation. I don’t think that’s how it works anymore,” a Republican who supports Pence said.
Trump is an enigmatic president who will almost certainly never be replicated, but Pence’s political future, and that of the party, hinges in large part on the question of whether Trump has brought about lasting change or if the Republican establishment — certainly weakened, but far from dead — can return to the dominance it enjoyed before Trump rode down that escalator. If the Trump movement is more than a one-man flash-in-the-pan, critics say that there are other candidates better positioned to carry the torch of Trumpism.
While Pence has undeniably built up a political network over the last two years, some Republicans say he hasn’t done enough to separate that operation from the MAGA base, which could leave him vulnerable to attack from other Trump loyalists. The biggest danger may be former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley who, despite having more establishment leanings, has attained Republican rock star status for her tireless support of Israel.
Some say that Haley could be a formidable challenger to Trump, and she is already laying the foundations for a 2024 bid. But “Pence is absolutely not the next GOP nominee, and frankly, it’s because of Trump,” a Republican opposed to Trump said.
Depending on Trump’s graces
Pence’s dilemma is that he has attached himself to an unconventional president who has radically altered the ideology and political dynamics of his party. The vice president has done this while simultaneously pursuing a conventional strategy to become the 2024 favorite.
Although Pence is stumping for the border wall, touting the Trump economy and hitting all the right notes on Republican 2020 campaign rhetoric, including zings at socialism and late-term abortion, critics wonder what his loyalty will get him with a president who remains widely popular with his base — and who has shown a willingness to cast old bonds aside, whether with his “rat” former lawyer or the innumerable staffers fired along the way.
Of course, if Trump decides to support him, Pence could indeed “emerge as an heir apparent,” a Republican strategist said. But with Trump in charge, that’s far from a certainty.
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