President Trump’s bid for re-election is well underway but no one seems to know for sure who his running mate will be.
In theory, it’s Mike Pence — except take a close look at the President’s campaign placards and posters. Pence’s name is nowhere to be found.
Instead, the campaign materials just say “Trump 2020.”
According to conservative columnist A.B. Stoddard, Pence’s absence is no accident. Trump, she says, is planning to dump his VP and run with his daughter Ivanka instead.
Far-fetched? You would think so, but Stoddard, who is no wide-eyed right-winger, insists it’s true.
In a little-noticed column published in The Hill on July 19, Stoddard wrote that Trump has ambitions of consolidating power around his family, in part to protect himself from possible prosecution after he leaves office.
The Stoddard column came just a few weeks after earlier reports that Trump was considering dumping Pence for former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, a rumor that Trump himself quickly shot down.
So far, though, he’s had nothing to say about VP speculation involving his daughter.
Stoddard argues that Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law “are already running the country,” pointing to their prominent behind the scenes roles in fashioning legislation on criminal justice reform and immigration, among other initiatives.
Ivanka was also highly visible at the G20 summit meeting in June, appearing to act as a stand-in for her father, edging out Pence.
Stoddard fails to mention it, but there’s another piece of evidence that Trump may not be reconsidering Pence as his VP.
In early July Pence was scheduled to make a campaign trip to New Hampshire, to begin talking up Trump’s re-election.
However, Trump called Pence back, without explanation. The media was left to speculate about the reason for the change.
This week Trump is stumping in New Hampshire, and Guess what? Pence is nowhere to be found.
The main argument for replacing Pence with Ivanka – or with Haley for that matter – is to enhance Trump’s electoral appeal among White women, many of whom seem to be souring on the president.
Democrats regained control of the House in 2018 largely due to significant disaffection among this critical segment of the electorate.
Polls show the president with a huge loss of favorability among female voters. His current net approval rating stands at an abysmal minus-20.
It’s unusual for presidents to decide to replace their own VP seemingly in mid-stream – but it’s happened. The most recent case was 1944 when Franklin Roosevelt replaced his controversial pro-labor VP Henry Wallace with Harry Truman.
Wallace opposed the Cold War with the Soviet Union and was seen as a potential liability. Truman, then an obscure Midwesterner, succeeded FDR when he died in office and went on to establish something of a landmark presidency.
Ivanka’s appointment as VP would naturally raise the same issue of presidential succession.
Trump has said on more than one occasion that his daughter – who tends to espouse more liberal policies than he does – would make a “great” president
Ivanka was highly visible during the 2016 campaign before receding into the background during Trump’s first year. But she has since regained the spotlight.
Trump has authorized her to launch a number of major policy initiatives including a multi-billion dollar global campaign to support “women in development.” She’s also slated to chair Trump’s new Workforce Advisory Panel.
How would the GOP establishment respond if Pence their standard-bearer were removed?
With serious concern, no doubt, but it might not matter. Trump has consolidated control over the party and is immensely popular with Republicans overall.
So, of course, is Ivanka, and she’s also popular with the American public – more popular than her father, apparently.
In a number of key 2020 swing states – including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — her net favorability rating is positive, with notably greater support among women.
If Trump does decide to go, rogue, the Democrats would likely try to skewer Ivanka, suggesting that she’s unfit to hold high office. But it’s sheer hypocrisy.
Celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Oprah Winfrey as well as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and most recently, Michelle Obama have all been touted by Democrats as serious presidential timber.
And kooky self-help guru Marianne Williamson is already in the 2020 race, earning her big-league plaudits from a party that seems devoid of realistic policy proposals.
If Trump were to name his politically seasoned daughter as his 2020 running mate, it might well strike many voters as an exercise in restraint by comparison.
And in the end, it would only add pressure on the Democrats to put a woman on their own ticket — possibly at the top.
Watch out, America: “Trump 2020” could soon become a two-fer