Noteworthy because of both the author and the publication the op-ed ran in.
I’m proud to have founded the Democrats for Trump movement in 2016. President Trump’s pro-growth policies have revived the stagnating U.S. economy, and he deserves a second term. But to have the best chance of re-election, he should replace Vice President Mike Pence on the ticket with Nikki Haley.
I mean no disrespect for Mr. Pence, who’s loyally served the president and the nation. But he’s given Mr. Trump all the help he can. He inspired his fellow evangelical Christians to take a chance in 2016. But in 2020 they’ll already be repelled by the Democrats’ embrace of infanticide. Mr. Trump’s greater obstacle to re-election comes from politically moderate suburban women, many of whom see him as divisive…
It’s too late for Mr. Trump to revamp his political personality. But with the 2016 election in the past, Nikki Haley on the ticket could tamp down the antipathy for Mr. Trump that seems to afflict so many moderate and Republican-leaning women. President Trump needs the prospect of a Vice President Haley to help recapture the White House.
The Journal is a Rupert Murdoch newspaper, of course, and Murdoch is a friend of the president’s. Would a friend stir up trouble for POTUS and his vice president by running this without clearing it with Trump himself first? NYT reporter Maggie Haberman doubts it:
Here’s something that doesn’t happen without a Murdoch nod https://t.co/D8mfgGoNeo
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 24, 2019
The author is Andrew Stein, former president of the New York City Council and a longtime Democrat. But as you see from the excerpt, he’s an unusually Trump-friendly Democrat. He endorsed Trump in 2016, publishing an op-ed in the Journal in that case too, and has known Trump for decades, having visited him in the White House just within the last few months. Trump donated tens of thousands of dollars to Stein’s campaigns in NYC in the 1980s, allegedly using dubious means to do so in order to skirt New York campaign-finance laws. They go way back, they’re friendly, and they’re still in touch.
Which raises the question again: Would Stein have stirred up trouble for his friend the president by submitting a “Dump Pence” piece to a newspaper without giving Trump a veto beforehand?
In fact, considering that Stein and Murdoch are both Trump pals, it’s possible that this op-ed exists as a favor to the president. Maybe Trump is toying with the idea of dropping Pence and wanted to gauge public reaction to the idea. So he dialed up his friends Andy and Rupert and asked if the two wouldn’t mind if this piece ran in Murdoch’s paper under Stein’s byline. Stein is the perfect person to do it too since, as a Democrat, he faces fewer consequences than a Republican would from factions within the GOP who are friendly to Pence. Bill Kristol is suspicious too:
This op-ed pushing a Trump-Nikki Haley ticket is by former NYC pol Andrew Stein (who later pled guilty to lying in a financial fraud). Stein knows Trump, of course, and is close to others in Trump world. Zero chance this trial balloon isn’t ok with Trump. https://t.co/r8ZGZWtIeF
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) June 24, 2019
There is, of course, the small matter of Trump having already asked Pence to be his running mate for a second term at a press conference following the midterms. But so what? Trump changes his mind all the time. If he’s convinced that replacing Pence with Haley will meaningfully improve his chances of winning, both he and every last one of his fans will support ruthlessly cashiering Pence under any pretense. It’s not like Pence is some MAGA nationalist hero. And Stein’s quite right when he says in his column that Pence won’t deliver any more evangelicals to Trump next year than Trump can deliver himself.
Would Haley deliver many new women voters for Trump? Sarah Palin didn’t deliver an outsized share of women voters for McCain in 2008. Per exit polls, Bush got 48 percent of the women vote in 2004; McCain got 43 percent; Romney improved slightly to 44 percent; and then Trump, running against the first major-party woman nominee, dropped to 41 percent. Haley’s more of an establishmentarian whereas Palin was more of a populist, though, and Haley has more government experience than Palin had when she was nominated. If putting her on the ticket boosted Trump’s share of the women vote just a few points to Romney levels, that alone might be enough to secure him a second term given how tight the 2016 race was.
Yet Trump’s persona so thoroughly dominates American politics that it’s hard to imagine next fall’s election as anything other than a referendum on him personally. And it’s not as if Pence has had obvious influence on Trump’s decisions as president, which would raise the stakes on Election Day of who his number two is. The Journal reported a few days ago about Trump’s Iran deliberations that Pence supported his initial decision on Thursday morning to attack, then supported his decision not to attack later in the early evening. Trump does what he wants and Pence loyally follows along — which is no doubt how Trump likes it, and why he might be reluctant to replace Pence on the ticket even if he might stand to gain from doing it. The point, though, is that the VP thus far is basically a hood ornament for Trump’s presidency. Why would any voter be enticed into buying a car they don’t like because the salesman is suddenly offering a different hood ornament?
I don’t think Haley wants the job either. Why would she? She wants to be president, and running with Trump for a second term seems not very likely to make that dream come true no matter the outcome. For starters, the media would demand that she answer for all the allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump, starting with the latest one, which will dent her support among women. They’ll also push her to explain her foreign-policy divergences from Trump, which were often on display at the UN when she would deliver stemwinders about Russian meddling abroad. Haley would have to make peace with protectionism, which cuts against her more traditionally conservative beliefs. If they won, she’d be the first woman VP and his heir apparent as leader of the party, but she’d also be facing the hard reality in 2024 that Americans seldom (once in the past 70 years) give the same party three straight terms in the White House. If they lost, she’d have the loser label affixed to her in the 2024 Republican primaries. “Nominate Haley and we’ll win women!” her fans will say. “Like we did in 2020?” her critics will reply.
Although none would ever admit it, the best-case scenario for any aspiring Republican president eyeing 2024 — especially those who don’t fit comfortably with Trumpism ideologically (Haley, Cruz, Rubio) — is to stay as far away from Trump as possible and quietly hope that he loses next year, especially to Biden or Bernie since their age increases the chance that they’ll step down after one term. That might create an opening four years later for a younger nominee like Haley who wants to steer the party in a different direction.