Will President Trump switch up his ticket in 2020? The Wall Street Journal editorial page, bastion of the establishment right, certainly hopes so. A little over a week ago, it called for former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to replace the dutiful Mike Pence as vice president. But there’s well-placed chatter in Washington that suggests the president will take a different route. Trump does indeed feel he needs VP change, but it is not Nikki Haley he is considering. It is Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
The Trump 2020 campaign needs panache, not more cash. If Trump wants to make a switch – as both his predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, flirted with doing – why would he lean further into the establishment?
Here’s why it would make sense for the president to just go all the way— and name Carlson his running mate.
First, Tucker gets Trump. The duo have personal chemistry far exceeding the rapport that Pence or Haley enjoy. Haley bitterly opposed Trump during the 2016 primary and a former senior administration official has long informed me that her hiring during the transition was a ‘keep your enemies closer’ affair. In Carlson, Trump would get to anoint an heir apparent he actually likes.
Second, Tucker gets Trumpism, and Trumpism gets Tucker. He is eminence grise of a new intellectual right befitting the Trump era, and appeals to people who have started to become disgruntled in President Trump.
It’s been speculated before that Carlson might enter a 2024 race, but Trump might want to bring him into his fold sooner than that. Trump often complains of ideological clashes with his own officials. That’s partly why he already relies on a shadow cabinet, anchored by Carlson, as proved by last week’s called-off strikes on Iran.
A Vice President Carlson could lay low, moreover, and empower a new generation of Trumpist conservatives from the Naval Observatory. Trump in his first term has had to appoint Bush-era officials who have no idea what drives Trump’s movement. Carlson knows Trumpworld far better.
If Tucker jumped into the 2024 race, as has been widely discussed, excitement among the activist class would be barely containable. If he jumped into 2020, excitement would boil over.
Third, it would work. As evidenced by his conquering of Bill O’Reilly’s time slot on Fox, Carlson is a fearsome debater and fearless operator. Far from being ‘just a talk show host,’ as he often says of himself, Carlson is becoming a political force.
Close friends of his say his recent bestselling book, Ship of Fools, represented a fairly comprehensive political platform: ‘a manifesto, of sorts,’ says one.
Pressed on the matter of presidential politics before, Carlson, like any savvy pol, has not explicitly ruled it out. Inside Fox News, those close to Carlson insist he’s unlikely to ever pull the trigger. But in the apparatus of devotees in Washington he’s cultivated, Carlson commands the respect of infantrymen waiting for a returning general. ‘He’s the guy,’ a prominent conservative close to Carlson told me.
Carslon has gone from ‘the bow tie guy’ to the voice of a new America. His intellectual heft is doubted by no one and he terrifies the old guard – as evidenced by the frantic tweeted denunciations of him on Monday morning by his former boss, William Kristol, the defrocked godfather of American conservatism.
Carlson would refocus a Trump campaign that’s straying in a quixotic direction: one which has decided it wants to win over the Sun Belt states, never mind the Rust Belt that delivered the presidency.
More than anything: it’d be fun — which shouldn’t be dismissed. It would drive CNN and MSNBC and left-liberal America completely wild.
It would put a rogue element back into Trump’s otherwise professional-yet-plodding 2020 campaign. It would provide precisely the wild energy that won Trump the presidency in 2016. Carlson could give Trump his mojo back.
If Trump is going to continue to get flak for making Carlson his peacetime consigliere, he may as well formalize the arrangement.
Bush considered dumping Dick Cheney for Bill Frist, the then-Senate majority leader. As the Democratic party now does, Obama weighed Hillary Clinton for Joe Biden swap. Trump is both in a more vulnerable electoral position than his predecessors and less risk averse.
Carlson, who just turned 50, was with the president on his trip to the Korean demilitarized zone over the weekend. His interview with 45 will air Monday night. This all while Trump’s national security adviser and fierce Carlson foe, John R. Bolton, was exiled, literally, to outer Mongolia. In some ways, Trump has already made the move, ex officio.