As uncertainty and controversy continues to swirl around President Trump's first year in the White House, top Republican officeholders have reportedly begun taking "unheard-of" political steps by launching what the New York Times calls a "shadow campaign for 2020."
According to the report out this weekend, multiple big-name GOP politicians, inducing Vice President Mike Pence, are quietly taking all the rights steps ahead of a future presidential run: bolstering donor relationships, courting conservative interest groups all while making sure to grow their profiles in the media.
"Republicans joke that he [Pence] is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago," according to the Times.
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However, Pence's press secretary Marc Lotter promptly reassured the public that the former Indiana governor has no plans to challenge Trump in 2020. "Claims @VP preparing for 2020 run are ridiculous #FakeNews and nothing more than wishful thinking by New York Times," Lotter wrote in a tweet.
But Pence's recent actions seem to point at least some interest in potentially running in 2020. In May, the vice president launched "Great America Committee," his own political action committee -- the first time a sitting vice-president has set up his own political arm.
"The president is as strong as he's ever been in Iowa, and every potentially ambitious Republican knows that," said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters, seeming to send a veiled warning after being asked about Trump facing a Republican challenger come election time.
According to the Times, the unpredictability and turmoil that has engulfed the current administration, along with the special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, has created a cloud of uncertainty over whether or not the president will even make through his first term, which has prompted multiple Republican figures to consider running in 2020.
And Pence isn't the only top Republican with activity pointing toward potential White House asspirations: Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have both made visits to Iowa this year, and Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, the Times reports.
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Cotton is holding a two-day, $5,000-per-person fund-raiser in New York next month, while Sasse has reportedly been hard at work cultivating relationships with top Republican donors and describing himself with "highly suggestive" language such as "independent-minded conservative who happens to caucus with Republicans in the Senate."
Kasich, who ran for president in 2016 and was one of the longest lasting candidates in the field, has yet to firmly rule out another presidential campaign in multiple interviews.
"What I'm saying is it's unlikely, but I don't know what the future is going to bring for me, or what responsibility or obligation I might feel," Kasich said back in March when asked about challenging Trump in 2020.
UPDATE: Vice President Pence released the following statement on Twitter: