Isn’t Mike Pence the Obvious Heir to Donald Trump?

Republican strategist Liz Mair ponders who will become the heir to Trump after he leaves office, but she never mentions Mike Pence. It’s seems like a pretty glaring oversight to me.

Since FDR passed away in 1945, we’ve had twelve presidents. Five of them (Truman, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, and Poppy Bush) were vice presidents before they took over the helm in the Oval Office. It’s true that three of the five took office due to death or resignation, but death and resignation (as well as impeachment and conviction) are ever-present possibilities. It’s clear that vice presidents are more likely to become president than people holding any other position. The fact that Joe Biden is currently the poll-leader among the Democratic candidates just reinforces this point.

Of course, there are no guarantees. Dan Quayle could never get any traction for a presidential bid. And just because you win the nomination, as Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Al Gore did, doesn’t mean that you’ll ever be president.

Sometimes people rocket to the top, seemingly out of nowhere. No one thought of Dwight Eisenhower as a political before he became one. John F. Kennedy was a young senator much like Barack Obama. Few people saw the rise of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton, and most observers though it would be Jeb rather than George W. Bush who followed his father into the White House. Donald Trump is in a category all by himself.

What seems rarest is the well-known Washington figures who haven’t served as vice president becoming party standard bearers. When these politicians get the party nod, it hasn’t worked out too well. George McGovern was destroyed. Bob Dole won the 1996 Republican nomination but was trounced from the beginning to the end of the campaign. John McCain and Mitt Romney both fell far short of expectations. Obviously, Hillary Clinton suffered a shocking defeat.

Yet, Liz Mair focuses almost exclusively on these kinds of politicians. She mentions Sens. Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse, Lindsey Graham, and Josh Hawley. The only partial exception on her list is former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador Nikki Haley. Her biography matches Adlai Stevenson’s fairly well, and we’ve seen Southern governors rise to the top before. The rest of these pols don’t have history on their side.

To me, is seems likely that Trump’s heir will be Mike Pence, and if it is not Mike Pence then it will probably be someone from outside of Washington, D.C, who we don’t know much about. It could be a governor or it could be someone from the private sector who is famous for some reason or another. Maybe it could even be a general or admiral.

The senators that Mair mentioned are certainly ambitious and I don’t doubt that many of them will seek the presidency at some point. None of them strikes me as a likely heir to Trump though. I guess I am thankful for that.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com