Here's What Happens If Pence Drops Out

by Chris Tognotti

This isn't the conversation Republicans were hoping to have just one month from the 2016 election, but it's the one they now need to have ― what happens if Mike Pence drops out of the race? While the most recent reports have suggested that Pence plans to stay on the ticket, even in the aftermath of the release of devastating video showing Trump bragging about grabbing women's genitals without consent, after the second presidential debate he might have to mull things over again.

That's because Trump flat-out threw Pence under the bus during his second face-off with Clinton, flatly contradicting his running-mate's stated position on Syria, saying he hadn't talked to him and that he disagreed. The moment prompted the following from CBS' Norah O'Donnell: "I just got an email from a source saying the Pence team is nuclear tonight... pissed."

In other words, maybe Pence and his team are having second thoughts? It's impossible to say for certain, but this much is clear: if he did drop out of the race, it'd leave the Republican National Committee with a whale of a situation on its hands, as it would fall to them (in all likelihood) to pick his replacement.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The protocol is laid out in the Republican National Committee's Rule 9, and although it leaves two potential options on the table, one of them is now highly impractical. Basically, if either Pence or Trump were to withdraw from the race, the Republicans could either re-convene their nominating convention to elect a replacement ― a hugely unlikely course of action, considering there's less than 30 days left until election day ― or it could be determined by a vote by the members of the RNC rules committee.

In other words, regardless of which avenue the RNC might take, Pence's withdrawal would not be addressed by voters, nor by Trump himself ― it'd be up to the party to pick a replacement. Which, in addition to being a potential minefield in terms of public perception, and a tough sell to whoever they might select considering how Trump's campaign is in a dire state of crisis, would surely infuriate Trump himself. Previously, he got to pick his own running-mate, but that won't be the case if Pence withdraws.


And go ahead and ask yourself ― does the Republican Party parachuting in a new VP sound like the sort of arrangement he'd accept? In simple terms, it's hugely important to Trump that his current VP remain his VP, which is one big reason his denigration of Pence during the debate was such a potentially devastating moment.