Mike Pence: always the bridesmaid, never the bride?
Mike Pence is one heartbeat away from the presidency, and, if you were to believe the rumours, he is hoping to get closer to the top job. The vice president's higher profile on the campaign trail could, of course, be for the good of the party - but there are many suggesting that it is, in fact, for the good of his political ambitions. But what are the signs?
Firstly, he became the first sitting vice president to create a political action committee (PAC) when he formed the Great America Committee. The Huffington Post argues that Pence is "different than vice presidents Americans have known in the past 16 years" by creating the PAC.
They explain: "None of the vice presidents before Pence who held office since the enactment of campaign finance reforms in 1971 and 1974 have established independent political fundraising efforts to promote themselves to donors prior to announcing their own presidential campaigns."
Usually, vice presidents have grown their personal political base by raising money for the president, the party, and state-level candidates. The Great America Committee has been doing this, donating more than $150,000 to Republican congressional candidates in February.
The PAC's focus is getting Republicans elected to Congress in the midterms, and Donald Trump and Pence re-elected in 2020. While it seems that it is to bolster Pence's political ambitions, the Washington Examiner reports that it can be "only used to donate to other campaigns and cannot be used to funnel back to any future efforts by Pence".
Corey Lewandowski, a political commentator and an adviser who helped Trump win the Republican nomination, has also been hired by the political action committee. He will join the vice president on the 2020 re-election campaign trail.
While the PAC may not directly fund any future efforts by Pence, its existence is to help the vice president grew his own personal base. This is something that he needs to build upon. The New York Magazine argues that the very fact he is vice president is a "loaves-and-fishes-level miracle", writing that he was "an embattled small-state governor with underwater approval ratings, dismal re-election prospects, and a national reputation in tatters" before he was added to the Trump ticket.
And now he is forever wedded to the unprecedented president. Joining the Trump ticket made sense to the former Indiana governor, with presidential ambitions of his own, but the only problem is: Trump won. "No one thought Trump would win," CNN argues, "In the wake of that loss, Pence could effectively portray himself as a party guy, someone who signed on to a troubled ticket in hopes of rescuing it for the good of the party but ultimately couldn't do it."
The loss would have fallen entirely on Trump, and Pence would have emerged with more publicity and credibility with GOP activists and donors. Instead, he has "sprinted toward Trump and laid a massive bear hug on him", and he doesn't seem to be letting go.
This could be damaging for the vice president. There have been whispers about a potential ticket shared with US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. However, as the Examiner notes, the 'Never-Trump' wing of voters would question a ticket with the faithful vice president on it. They call the prospect of a Pence-Haley ticket an "unholy and unworkable political marriage doomed to failure". It certainly will not succeed in 2020 due to Trump and his loyal conservative base - and it looks doubtful for 2024.
The president is aware of his second-in-command's higher profile, and Trump is putting Pence in a corner and asserting his dominance, according to Politico. They report that Trump was not planning to attend the NRA convention this year - that was until he heard that Pence would be giving a keynote address, and there was a reportedly a change of plans in the West Wing. It wasn't the first time he has changed his plans to upstage his vice president, either. For instance, it was originally Pence, not Trump, who planned to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland - the president decided to "bump" his veep off the schedule.
While Mike Pence may have political ambitions of his own, beyond the office of vice president, his relationship with Donald Trump could affect his chances. He is building a higher profile, but it can't be too high with a wary and jealous president watching. His association with Trump may have given him the office of vice president, when he was luck was down, but it could mean that is as far as he will rise.