There are signs that after their rupture over Mike Pence’s refusal to steal the 2020 presidential election for Donald Trump on January 6, the former vice-president may be crawling back into the camp of the man whose “broad shoulders” he so embarrassingly used to praise. As my colleague Jonathan Chait noted, Pence has now penned an op-ed suggesting that Trump’s effort to deny Biden the electoral vote majority that all 50 states had certified was perfectly appropriate, albeit marred by all the unpleasantness surrounding the Capitol riot, which the veep barely escaped with his life. Perhaps Pence took Trump’s failure to condemn him by name at last weekend’s CPAC conference as a surreptitious valentine, which the doughty Hoosier returned by endorsing the Boss’s voter-suppression agenda.
It’s always fun to see a loving couple get back together. But there are reports from the heart of MAGA-land that if Trump does run for another term in 2024, he may continue his long personal history of playing the field. Bloomberg News has the story: “Trump’s advisers have discussed identifying a Black or female running mate for his next run, and three of the people familiar with the matter said Pence likely won’t be on the ticket.”
As this talk suggests, there is presumably a negative reason for dumping Pence — his above-mentioned treachery on January 6 — and a positive reason: the opportunity to cloak Trump’s signature sexism and racism in the identity of a running mate. That the essence of Trumpism won’t change is indicated by the woman reported to be the latest apple of his eye: South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, who made a national name for herself by turning her state into a COVID-19 hotbed while insisting that public-health precautions accepted nearly everywhere else would rob her people of their priceless heritage of freedom. The Bloomberg article suggests South Carolina senator Tim Scott as an option for Trump ’24, though unlike his Palmetto State colleague Lindsey Graham, Scott may not be Trumpy enough.
There aren’t many historical precedents to go by here. The last time a sitting vice-president was denied renomination by his party was in 1976, when conservatives forced Nelson Rockefeller to drop any ambitions of staying on the Republican ticket of Gerald Ford. But Rocky had never been elected vice-president in the first place (he was appointed when the previously appointed Gerald Ford ascended to the presidency upon Richard Nixon’s resignation). One elected and subsequently defeated vice-president, Fritz Mondale, won the presidential nomination four years later. But then again, his former boss (Jimmy Carter) wasn’t running. If you go all the way back to the last president to win nonconsecutive terms, Grover Cleveland had three different running mates, although the first, Thomas Hendricks, died eight months into Cleveland’s first term (under the rules that existed then, the veep position remained vacant until filled by the running mate of Cleveland’s first Republican successor).
Something to watch is whether Trump’s own family members, who, like the old man, tend to have happy feet, maintain voting residences in different states, thus avoiding the potential problem of two members of the same presidential ticket being disqualified from receiving their state’s electoral votes. There’s something very appropriate about a Trump-Trump ticket in 2024; there would be no brand dilution at all. And the idea of a dynastic ticket would give the 45th president time to choose among Junior, Ivanka, and the budding politician Lara, leaving Mike Pence mulling the price of his one moment of independence.