President Trump’s post-midterm election news conference at the White House last week took a surprising turn when a reporter asked about locking down his 2020 ticket.
“Mike, will you be my running mate?” Mr. Trump asked Vice President Pence, who stood up, raised his hand, and nodded.
“Will you? Thank you. O.K., good,” the president said. “That was unexpected, but I feel very fine.”
But in private Mr. Trump is apparently not feeling so fine. In recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, Mr. Trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him. In one conversation after another he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Mike Pence loyal?
Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.
The answers Mr. Trump gets to his question have varied, depending on whom he asks.
Within the White House, most people he has talked to have assured the president that Mr. Pence has been a committed soldier, engaging in activities that Mr. Trump has eschewed, such as traveling to Hawaii to receive the remains of veterans of the Korean War, or visiting parts of the globe that Mr. Trump has avoided.
But some Trump advisers, primarily outside the White House, have suggested to him that while Mr. Pence remains loyal, he may have used up his utility. These advisers argue that Mr. Trump has forged his own relationship with evangelical voters, and that what he might benefit from more is a running mate who could help him with female voters, who disapprove of him in large numbers.
SOURCE: Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers
The New York Times