Keep The Veep? On Thursday night, White House aide Kellyanne Conway told a Florida audience without prompting that Vice President Mike Pence "will be on the ticket, promise."
What made her do it? Probably the whispers that Trump might just dump Pence in favor of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley whispers that turned to a more audible buzz when Haley herself tweeted on the topic ("He has been a loyal and trustworthy VP to the President. He has my complete support.").
This isn't something new to Washington. Back in 2012, when a Democratic presidency was looking at a sluggish economy, Barack Obama's aides tinkered with the idea of swapping out Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton. In 1992, then-Vice President Dan Quayle had his detractors.
The last time a President jettisoned an incumbent veep? That would be 1976, when Gerald Ford traded in Nelson Rockefeller for Bob Dole. Ford lost that election, which likely had more to do with the nation's Watergate hangover than the conservative wing of the GOP's complicated relationship with Ford and its decided animus toward Rockefeller.
Let's suppose for a moment that Trump did indeed make a change, adding Haley to the ticket. Who benefits? Not Trump, mind you, but Haley (as a presidential contender in 2024) not unless you think she can somehow chip into the expected gender gap, assuage independents' economic nervousness, or reassure wary Christian conservatives that the President is with them (which is why Pence was put on the ticket in 2016).
The bottom line: it's a Trump-centric election cycle fueled by Trump actions, Trump antics and Trump rhetoric. Other than a short run of attention at the convention, no running mate can change that dynamic.
Still, the intrigue continues . . .
"Primarying" Trump. President Trump already has a primary challenger in the former of former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (he's telling reporters that New Hampshire is his make-or-break state).
Who else might make a run at Trump? Former Reps. Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford reportedly are close to a launch; former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich are still lurking about.
About "primarying" a sitting president: if Democrats think that's the way to end the nightmare that they deem the Trump presidency, it's time to start thinking about a Plan B.
Or so recent campaign history tells us.
In 1976, Ronald Reagan took Ford all the way to the Republican National Convention (a shift of only 59 delegates would have given Reagan the nomination); in 1980; Teddy Kennedy dragged out his feud with Jimmy Carter all the way to that year's Democratic National Convention, even though Kennedy went into that showcase trailing by an insurmountable 700 delegates.
The point: Reagan was a conservative icon; Kennedy was a liberal lion. Each had devout national followings and ran campaigns that, in effect, challenged the president's ideological bona fides. That's not what the aforementioned #nevertrump challengers offer at least, so long as they assail presidential temperament rather than presidential accomplishments.
But what primary challenges do sometimes achieve: by driving a wedge in the party's, softening up the incumbent for the general election. It happened to Ford, Carter and George W. Bush in 1992.
Which leads us to a different kind of revolt one that's more psychological than policy-drive . . .
Torment Trump. The other emerging "challenger" to Trump: Anthony Scaramucci, the New York-based investor and media firebrand who lasted all of ten days in the White House as Trump's communications director (one of John Kelly's first acts as the incoming White House chief of staff was canning Scaramucci for telling a reporter: "I'm not Steve Bannon. I'm not trying to suck my own c ").
"The Mooch" is making things personal. He's likened life in the West Wing to "a hostage crisis." Trump is a "Mad Night King." The President is "racist against everybody."
Scaramucci's told reporters that he intends to form a political action committee to run advertisements against his former boss. "It's going to be â€˜The Committee to Dismantle Trump,' but I'll come up with a much cleverer thing than that," Scaramucci told a podcast interviewer. "I'm going to throw my own dough in there, ask others to put their dough in there and we're going to explain to the people what he's doing."
Scaramucci has set a relatively low bar, saying the goal is to get " . . . 5, 6, 8% of the people that know he's nuts and possibly move them" i.e. not take down Trump, but cripple him.
Maybe that's Scaramucci's end-game though all sorts of competing theories exist (my favorite: that getting into a feud with Trump is The Mooch's way of getting his wife a gig on The Real Housewives of New Jersey).
This much we know: though it's a relatively short stroll from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial, it's hard to imagine Trump making a humble overture similar to America's 16th President and his appeal to a delegation from the National Union League: "I do not allow myself to suppose that either the Convention or the League have concluded to decide that I am the greatest or best man in America, but rather they have concluded that it is not best to swap horses while crossing the river, and have further concluded that I am not so poor a horse that they might not make a botch of it in trying to swap."
Lincoln was right and the horse crossed the river in 1864.
Don't expect any horse-swapping in 2020.
Not that it will quiet the neigh-sayers.
Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.