As it becomes increasingly plausible President Trump could win re-election in 2020, some in the mainstream media have taken aim at what he is doing to position himself for the race and casting it in negative terms.
Vanity Fair had two such pieces up Wednesday. One, headlined, “Trump’s Next Campaign May Be Even Crazier Than The First,” by Tina Nguyen, argues Trump won the 2016 election “despite being a shambling jalopy of a campaign,” because “Trump’s schtick was new and the moment was right,” and that we better beware what he will do now that neither is the case.
The other, headlined, “Pence is Not Stupid: As Trump Sinks, GOP Insiders See A Shadow Campaign Taking Shape,” by David Drucker, attempts to paint Vice President Mike Pence’s work on behalf of Republican congressional candidates as an undercover plot to position Pence to move forward if President Trump falters in any way.
Nguyen’s theory is that Trump, who bested 17 Republicans to gain the GOP nomination, then defeated the most well-funded, best-connected and, according to former President Obama “best prepared” candidate of all time – a woman, no less, at the height of the identity politics craze – had an easy run in 2016 compared to what he will face in 2020.
“Trump’s campaign had two big things going for it … a feckless group of establishment primary challengers in a year when the conservative base was ready to revolt, and a widely loathed Democratic opponent in Hillary Clinton,” Nguyen wrote.
Now, he has “slashed corporate taxes and presides over a booming economy, both factors that have helped him and his affiliated super PACs raise over $73 million in 2017 alone.” Trump raised $43 million last year, four times what President Obama raised during his first two years in office, Nguyen tells us.
All this money has given him “a massive head start against his future Democratic opponent” and allowed him to “pay off his hefty legal fees.”
Pence does the dirty work of helping candidates get elected while Trump “fills his mostly empty schedule with monthly rallies to keep himself and his base energized.”
This is critical because “political lightning rarely strikes twice,” Nguyen wrote, apparently unaware the last three presidents have served two terms.
This will be even harder for Trump who ran as an outsider because, “two years later, Trump is the ultimate insider, even if he occasionally treats his presidency like he’s watching it on TV.”
That means “now that he is the Establishment and his party holds the majority in all houses of government, he’ll have to swivel his narrative to cast blame elsewhere.”
And while he’s at it, he needs to keep a close eye on Pence. All that running around the country campaigning and fundraising for Republican candidates that the vice president does may not be all in the name of … electing more Republicans to Congress and helping his boss have a successful next two years.
Drucker’s piece leads with a quote from an anonymous “senior political adviser to Pence” that says, “There is no shadow campaign. The president tasked the vice president with being the tip of the spear for the midterm elections. Our actions have the full support of the president’s re-election team.”
Drucker seemed to hold out hope Trump’s presidency could still crash and burn and to suspect Pence is readying himself for these eventualities.
“Talk of a ‘shadow campaign’ isn’t the sort of thing with which vice presidents typically contend when supporting the boss’s re-election efforts,” Drucker wrote. But Trump isn’t a typical president, and Pence, GOP strategists say, would be stupid not to be preparing various contingencies.”
This “buzz about Pence’s political aspirations has become something of a parlor game in Washington,” and much of what Pence has done can be put down to typical fundraising and election activity. Pence’s operatives say everything they do has the blessing of Trump and his campaign.
“Yet questions continue to linger,” Drucker wrote. “And it’s not all the product of a Washington press corps that can, on occasion, over-analyze things.”