If his campaign-style rallies are any indication, President Donald Trump clearly has his eye on a second term. The question is, are Republicans keen on four more years of Trump? A new report from the New York Times, alleges some Republicans have already launched shadow campaigns for 2020 despite the fact Trump has shown clear signs he plans to run for re-election.
According to the Times, widespread doubt within the Republican Party over Trump's 2020 potential has led those interested in the presidency to begin "cultivating some of the party's most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups, and carefully enhancing their profiles." Among those believed to already be laying the foundation for a potential 2020 run are Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. John Kasich, Sens. Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse, and former South Carolina Gov. and current ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
In a statement to the Times, Sen. John McCain admitted the GOP members already prepping for a 2020 presidential bid "see weakness in the president." "Look, it's not a nice business we're in," he said.
Not surprisingly, the White House hasn't received the news Trump may face some competition in the 2020 primary well. "The president is as strong as he's ever been in Iowa, and every potentially ambitious Republican knows that," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told the Times.
While most of the so-called "shadow candidates" within the GOP have implied they'd run only if Trump, for whatever reason, doesn't, some, like Gov. Kasich, have reportedly hinted at a willingness to challenge Trump directly come 2020.
But according to the Times, it's the busy political schedule Vice President Pence is keeping that has spurred other potential would-be 2020 candidates to start putting themselves out there to donors and interest groups. Further fueling speculation is the fact that Pence recently established his own political action committee in a highly-unusual move for a sitting vice president.
However, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway dismissed reports Pence was gearing up for his own 2020 presidential campaign as "complete fiction" Sunday in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "It is absolutely true the vice president is getting ready for 2020 – for re-election as vice president," she said. "Vice President Pence is a very loyal, very dutiful, but also incredibly effective vice president."
Pence also dismissed the report, calling it "disgraceful and offensive" in a statement released Sunday. "The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this Administration," Pence said. "Whatever fake news may come our way, my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the President's agenda and see him re-elected in 2020."
Across the aisle, Democrats are also getting a head start on the 2020 presidential election. In late July, Maryland congressman John Delaney announced his 2020 presidential campaign via an op-ed in the Washington Post.