"Pence is not stupid": Is a shadow campaign taking shape?

Appearances being so central to the president, fans of both Trump and Pence worry about the impact whispers of President Pence might have on their political marriage. That could account for Trump loyalist Corey Lewandowski joining Pence’s political-action committee as an adviser—a sign, some have said, that Trump is asserting his dominance. Fox News reports that Lewandowski plans to travel with the vice president as he campaigns for Republicans on the November ballot.

But there are critical factors that led to Pence becoming the West Wing’s political go-to guy that can’t be fixed by personnel makeovers or blamed on Trump’s disinterest in party-building, as a few of the president’s biggest cheerleaders in Washington have repeatedly complained to me in recent months. Whatever White House Chief of Staff John Kelly brings to the table, political instincts or operational know-how aren’t part of his skill set. Second, the White House political shop, which would normally command all White House-related political activity, has never been fully empowered to fulfill this crucial role. Third, the Republican National Committee, which is usually influential in shaping a president’s political involvement, is perceived as ineffective beyond fund-raising.

What distinguishes the vice president’s robust operation is that it functions proficiently, free of the typical Trump melodrama. Have a question? Need help with a campaign? Does a major donor or valued activist need massaging? Want Pence to headline an event? You get a timely answer—and it’s probably the answer you were hoping for.