This silly question comes up in every presidential re-elect cycle, but at least Donald Trump tried to put an end to it early this time. The Fox & Friends team asked Trump if he would consider shaking up the ticket next year by dumping Mike Pence for Nikki Haley to get any kind of electoral advantage. Trump extolled Haley’s virtues — especially her taste in presidents at the moment — but said Pence was “our guy” for 2020:
In a nearly hour-long interview on “Fox & Friends,” Trump said that Pence “is our man 100 percent,” dismissing whispers about potentially swapping Pence out for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on the ticket in the upcoming year.
“Mike Pence is a great vice president,” Trump said, adding that Haley would “absolutely” be involved in his campaign no matter what, offering praise for the rare former member of his administration he remains on good terms with and suggesting she’s likely enjoying her time in the private sector.
“She is a friend of mine, she endorsed me with the most beautiful endorsement you’ve ever heard. She did a great job at the U.N.,” Trump explained. …
“Nikki would be great, but Mike Pence has done a phenomenal job as our vice president. He is our guy, he is my friend,” Trump concluded.
Presidents don’t dump vice presidents off of tickets without a really good reason. Electoral prospects aren’t usually among those, because (a) voters don’t usually condition their votes on the bottom half of the ticket anyway, and (b) whatever minor electoral gains might happen will be vastly overshadowed by the tacit acknowledgment that the incumbent president’s very first command decision was a major mistake. That’s one reason why no incumbent president has tried this maneuver since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who booted Henry Wallace off the 1944 ticket over concerns that he was too much of a Soviet sympathizer. FDR could afford to do it because he was winning World War II at the time and no one would have wanted to change horses in the middle of that existential conflict.
The only potential electoral advantage here would be to woo more women to the GOP in order to elect the first female VP, but that’s not going to work. Women who don’t like Trump are not going to vote for his second term just because Haley would get to sit around instead of Mike Pence. Pence has his own considerable influence among evangelicals too, which Trump would risk alienating if Pence got dumped off the ticket — even if they like Haley, they looove Pence. There’s no upside and all sorts of downside to such a move.
Besides all that, why would Haley want the job? She has her eyes set on the presidency, not second banana, and even if Trump wins next year the country will likely want a change in direction. Haley is far better off staying on friendly terms with Trump and MAGA Country for the next four years and then launch a campaign without having to defend Trump with a fatigued electorate (as most electorates are after an eight-year presidency). Furthermore, history shows that the vice presidency is rarely the path to the top job, except through death or resignation. The only two presidents in the post-WWII period to be elected to the office after being VP are Richard Nixon (Eisenhower, but only on Nixon’s second attempt) and George H. W. Bush (Reagan). LBJ won his election in 1964, but only after succeeding to the office with JFK’s assassination. VPs such as Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Al Gore all tried and failed.
Haley’s already on the arc for 2024 or 2028. Why would she handicap herself, especially given the no-holds-barred political wars surrounding Trump? Better to keep a safe but friendly distance and prepare for a run under her own steam later.