What If Mike Pence Becomes President?

—who’s quietly launched his own PAC and already begun glad-handing big dollar donors—is shocked (shocked!) by the rumors that he might be laying the groundwork for his own presidency. Fake news, he calls it. But while the veep doth protest, Republicans are already imagining the outlines of a post-Trump Washington—and the first moves of a Mike Pence White House.

Becoming president, Mike Pence will tell you, is not on his mind. He swears. He’s got a terrific job right now, as vice president—a gig that, despite any appearance to the contrary, is “the greatest privilege of my life.” Or so Pence gushed to Donald Trump (and an abundance of TV cameras) at a recent cabinet meeting, where he squinted those chestnut eyes of his and gave the honest-to-God impression that he’d like nothing more than to serve as Trump’s loyal understudy for the rest of his life.

So, the fury Pence summoned on Sunday was maybe more predictable than believable. Denying a report from the New York Times that Pence might be laying the groundwork for a presidential bid in 2020, the vice president blasted the article as “disgraceful and offensive.” For good measure, Pence added: “Whatever fake news may come our way, my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the president’s agenda and see him re-elected in 2020.” Fair enough. But if you accept his theatrics and take him at his word, Mike Pence is perhaps the only person in Washington not currently prepping for a Mike Pence presidency.

Yet, for all the eagerness to imagine Pence in the White House, the real speculating about his administration occurs mostly in furtive whispers and behind closed doors. “That’s a thought experiment that gets you killed,” demurred Frank Luntz, the generally loquacious G.O.P. pollster, when I tried to probe him about Pence’s future.

Still, there are moments now when Pence himself stokes visions of his ascendancy—days when he plays the role not of vice president but of a kind of virtual president. Instances, in other words, when he offers a glimpse of a future as tantalizing to some as it is frightening to others.

Maybe the most intriguing of these crystal-ball moments came this summer, after Trump’s first, dismal trip to Europe. The president used the visit to make headlines for, among other things, boorishly shoving the prime minister of Montenegro and haranguing NATO allies. To the power brokers back in Washington—the policymakers and think-tankers who sweat the details that Trump tramples—the performance was cringe-inducing, the commander in chief laying waste to 70 years of postwar American leadership.


To the G.O.P., Pence would be a kind of godsend, a president who would be, as the former adviser describes him, “a think-tank-talk-news-created Republican robot.”



Denis G Campbell View more

Denis G Campbell
Denis G. Campbell is founder and editor of UK Progressive magazine and co-host of The Three Muckrakers podcast. He is the author of 7 books and provides Americas, EU and Middle Eastern commentary to the BBC, itv, Al Jazeera English, CNN, CRI, MSNBC and others. He is CEO of Monknash Media and a principal with B2E Consulting in London. You can follow him on Twitter @UKProgressive and on Facebook.

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