Trump: No, I won't endorse Pence for 2024 yet

God, I wish he would. Just to spare us the ugly spectacle of Ted Cruz becoming Trump’s most outspoken toady before the 2024 primaries in hopes of winning that endorsement instead.

The media is treating this as newsworthy. I haven’t the slightest idea why.

WaPo has a piece about it too, as does the AP. Anti-Trumpers are naturally eager to read drama into it…

…but Trump has already asked Pence to be his running mate next year, on camera.

Of course, he isn’t known for his constancy. If pollsters come to him with data showing that a woman VP would help win more women’s votes, anything’s possible. But if that wasn’t enough to get him to choose a woman VP in 2016, while facing the first woman major-party nominee for president in American history, why would it be enough now?

Anyway, a question: Has any president ever endorsed his VP for president *during his first term*? Obama not only declined to endorse Biden during his two terms, he actively discouraged him from opposing Hillary. Endorsing Biden now might singlehandedly propel Uncle Joe to victory in the primaries — and yet O still resists. Clinton endorsed Al Gore in 1999, towards the end of his second term, ahead of a primary in which Gore ended up winning every contest against Bill Bradley. Reagan endorsed Bush less than a year before leaving office, “tepidly,” and even mispronounced his name when he did.

Why would Trump back Pence two and a half years through a possible eight-year term?

The Reagan/Bush analogy is useful in that Reagan and Trump each ignited a political revolution within the GOP and each ended up choosing a VP who had opposed him in the primaries, one whose ideology doesn’t always track comfortably with the president’s. Reagan endorsing Bush and Trump endorsing Pence isn’t as logical ideologically as Clinton endorsing Gore was. Reagan had an easier choice in 1988 than Trump will have in 2024 too, in that there were no staunch and formidable “Reagan Republicans” in the GOP primary field who might have drawn his interest away from Bush. Bush’s chief competition that year was Bob Dole, who had ended up as Gerald Ford’s VP nominee after a hard-fought primary fight between Ford and Reagan in 1976. For an incumbent president to snub his own VP and endorse a competitor, that competitor would need to be awfully appealing to him. Dole wasn’t.

Trump is facing a different equation potentially in 2024. Pence is a loyal servant but he’s more of a traditional conservative than a “Trump Republican.” And there are apt to be some formidable “Trump Republicans” in the mix five years from now — Tom Cotton for one, possibly some outsider populist like Tucker Carlson, possibly Josh Hawley or even Cruz as each tries to feel his way towards the most marketable possible ideology for Republican primary voters. Beyond that, Trump himself is so unrestrained by political politesse and his victory in 2016 was so paradigm-shattering that he simply won’t feel the same pressure to be a “good soldier” and stick with his VP in 2024 as Reagan felt in backing Bush in 1988. Basic loyalty to Pence after eight years of service may lead him not to endorse in the primaries at all if he’s inclined to go in a different direction; or he might do something unpredictably Trumpy like endorse Pence and someone else. But, if anything, the old mold of the incumbent president automatically endorsing his own vice president won’t weigh much on his mind. If anything, he might enjoy breaking it.