Talking Points

Why Trump dumped Pence — and what it means for 2024

My Washington Examiner colleague David Drucker has the scoop: Former President Donald Trump and Mike Pence, his long-suffering vice president, are splitsville. Trump said in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday that he would be unlikely to tap Pence as his running mate were he to run for the White House again in 2024.

This isn't enormously surprising. Trump has held a grudge against Pence for not going along with his unconstitutional scheme to effectively overturn the 2020 election results. Pence has become increasingly assertive about pushing back against Trump on this question. And unlike some others, Pence doesn't seem to be deferring to his old boss on 2024 either

But Trump didn't say Pence personally was the reason another go-round is a nonstarter. "I don't think the people would accept it," he told Drucker. Pence's actions in certifying President Biden's election discredited him with the Republican base, Trump argued.

He may be right, but that's bad news for the GOP. Republicans should want the 2024 election to be about Biden and his record, which has thus far not been very well received by the electorate. Trump wants it to be about 2020 — and, particularly if both he and Pence run and lead the GOP primary field, it will be.

Perhaps that's an opening for someone — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)? or even Pence himself? — to run as the forward-looking candidate the Republican Party needs. But is there anything that has happened since 2015 that would make you want to bet on that outcome? Whatever Trump's shortcomings, his ability to sense what motivates the base is not one of them. And 2020 could be used as a dividing line between respectable Republicans like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who in this telling craved adulation from The New York Times, and Republicans Who Will Fight. Fighting, of course, needs to be defined more broadly than, "Repeatedly punching oneself in the face to no obvious effect."

If Trump successfully makes 2024 about 2020, it would be an ironic boon for Democrats: Biden won in 2020 (really) because he was able to frame the election as a referendum on Trump, not a binary choice between the two of them. This time around, a binary choice is the Democrats' best shot.