President Donald Trump has proven to be a volatile and unpredictable president, and more and more individuals close to him believe he might upend the November election.
One veteran Republican operative told Politico that it's been stunning how many Trump associates believe he could bail out of the race to avoid a repudiating defeat, just as he's declared bankruptcy in his business career.
“He doesn’t want to be a loser, and that’s all in jeopardy now,” the strategist said. “It’s less than 50-50, but I’m amazed at the amount of New Yorkers that are talking about this — his former friends. ... They think he’s looking for an excuse to get out.”
Trump might also shake up the race by dumping Vice President Mike Pence from the ticket, according to his associates.
“He would throw Mike Pence in a wood chipper if he needed to,” said one former White House official who frequently interacts with the president. “I’m still very surprised that he’s on the ticket. If someone walks in there and tells him, ‘The only way you’re going to pull this out is to put an African American on the ticket or to put a woman on the ticket’ — if it’s good for Trump, he’ll do it in a second.”
The president's increasingly perilous re-election chances could weigh down the Republican Party's majority in the Senate, which could lead Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to finally cut his losses and turn on Trump.
“At the end of the day, the Senate majority leader wants to be the Senate majority leader,” said another former senior White House official. "He cares about the Senate, he cares about maintaining that majority, so if that means walking away from Trump at some point, he absolutely will.”
However, that dynamic could shift dramatically if a Supreme Court vacancy opened up before the election.
“I couldn’t even fathom the chaos a vacancy could bring to this race,” said one Republican operative who's close to the Trump campaign. “McConnell’s going to go forward, the president’s going to go forward and the left is going to go crazy.”
None of the Washington veterans who spoke to Politico believed the most extreme scenario, that Trump would simply refuse to leave power and stay in the White House until he's dragged out, but instead suggested he would give up while questioning the validity of the results.
“That will be his rationale and for the rest of his life, we’ll never hear anything but, ‘It was stolen,'" said one former White House official. "He can’t admit that he lost, so how he’ll comfort himself or justify it is that it was stolen.”