More and more, as the Russia thing is ongoing and as the Special Counsel ramps up, some within the GOP are looking forward and almost wishing that some kind of legal jeopardy causes President Trump to resign or be impeached. In which case, they would be left with a President Pence, which seems to be something they’d be satisfied with.
For his part, Pence has been very loyal to Trump, always doing the bidding of his superior and trying his best to act as a conduit between the White House and Congress. Always being humble, Pence fervently downplays this kind of talk since it’s not helpful in pushing Trump’s agenda forward.
Politico reports on some of the ways that Pence, in essence, is already viewed by some as the “President” when it comes to some matters:
If doing that job for a boss like Trump is the equivalent of walking a tightrope, it could get narrower in a hurry. Nobody expects Pence, who just turned 58, to suddenly usurp the president in any way; that’s just not who he is. But people close to him understand that with each new layer of legal jeopardy Trump encounters, be it in relation to Russia, Comey, Flynn, any combination of the three or something else entirely, the murmurs of “President Pence” will only grow louder. (After weeks of deliberation, Pence in mid-June followed Trump’s lead in hiring an outside counsel to deal with the expanding Russia-related inquiries.) The president’s precarious situation, coupled with Pence’s recent burst of political activity—in May he formed a new PAC, the Great America Committee; his summer calendar is littered with campaign swings on behalf of prominent lawmakers; he has been hosting intimate dinners with key activists and donors; and there are discussions underway about reengaging with his old friends Charles and David Koch—might produce a perception that becomes unmanageable for the vice president’s team. Republicans on Capitol Hill already operate as though Pence sits atop the party, and some have recently begun gossiping with a surprising lack of discretion about their expectation that the 71-year-old Trump will decline to seek reelection in 2020. What little buzz about President Pence exists in the GOP has less to do with impeachment than it does with speculation that Trump might simply tire of the White House and hand the reins to his deputy. [Emphasis added]
In other words, Trump’s probably not going to be removed from office, but some within the GOP are hoping he simply gets bored with the process and decides to promote Pence by handing him the reigns. Who knows, maybe Trump even stays on as the President so he can keep the free travel, but he allows Pence to start setting the agenda.
All of this is just speculation and fantasy — for now.
The liberal New Republic also seems eager to welcome a “President Pence,” because they see that situation as a way to further impede any Republican agenda:
But it’s a mistake to think that Pence would be a more competent or popular president, one capable of enacting the right-wing agenda that has eluded Trump. It’s possible Pence would enjoy a honeymoon after taking office, with most Democrats and many Republicans grateful to see Trump gone, but it would be only a honeymoon. President Gerald Ford’s brief period of grace after taking over for Richard Nixon in 1974 ended when he pardoned his predecessor. Once Pence tried to implement his agenda, Democrats would remember Pence’s complicity in helping Trump become president. Indeed, Democrats would have readymade 2020 ads showing Pence praising his now-disgraced former boss.
Nor would there be widespread support for Pence among Republicans. Though he’s a more conventional Republican, he will inherit a party that is even more fractured than it is now. Trump has had a hard time governing not only because of his own ignorance and blundering, but because there’s nothing holding the Republican Party together other than hatred of the Democrats. There is no unity of purpose between the House Freedom Caucus, the House moderates, and GOP senators. As president, Pence will have much in common with mainstream Republicans but he will find, as Obama and Trump did before him, that a small number of far-right congressmen can sabotage legislation.
Basically the long and short of it is that even if Trump were to get bored of the presidency and leave on his own terms, the GOP probably wouldn’t be any better off than simply doubling-down and trying to let Trump implement their agenda.
Just to play out this fantasy, if Trump were to leave on his own, he’d very likely burn every bridge on the way out and leave the party smoldering. There would be endless tweets about how “the swamp” was too deep to overcome, how Republicans are “losers,” and how his supporters should follow him and fight the GOP, Dems, and media combined. That would not leave a very good landscape for the imaginary “President Pence” to walk into.
Maybe in that case, he’d join Trump on the way out. Are you ready for “President Ryan?”