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Opinion The New York Times stumbles on the way to 2020

Vice President Pence denounced a New York Times article suggesting he is eyeing a 2020 run for president, calling it "disgraceful and offensive." (Video: Reuters)

With the August recess underway and the pace of news slowing in Washington, the New York Times felt compelled to stir the pot and accuse Vice President Pence of leading a “shadow campaign for 2020.” Are the New York Times’ readers so dumb that they think Pence would do such a thing?

By running such a blatantly contrived story, the Times has only further proved that the mainstream media is out of control and conniving to the point of being clumsy and, dare I say, fake news. Its only goal was to disrupt the Trump White House, discourage Republican donors and distract GOP candidates on the 2018 ballot, who have no patience for anyone thinking beyond that election.

At this point, the New York Times is not reporting the news but trying to create it.

The Times’ story claimed two of Pence’s staff members — Marty Obst, an aide to the vice president, and Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff — respectively said “that they wanted to be prepared to run in case there was an opening in 2020” and that they “signaled to multiple major Republican donors that Mr. pence wants to be ready.” But according to Obst, the prospect of Pence positioning himself for a run in 2020 is “beyond ridiculous.” And with regard to soliciting support from donors, Ayers argued on Twitter that the Times is “unable to name one donor that has ever heard me say that…because I haven’t. #shameful #fakenews”

Even though the story has been fully discredited by everyone involved, including Pence, who described it as “disgraceful and offensive,” it will live on as a reference point among Democrats and liberals in the media. They will accept as convenient fact the article’s unsubstantiated allegations that Pence is conducting himself as if he has an eye on 2020.

The New York Times is just trying to leave its mark. But it has stumbled on the way to 2020.

If you really want to keep an eye on Pence and his presidential ambitions, know that the best thing he could do for himself would be to continue to serve as a loyal and able vice president. Nothing else will matter for a long time.

The vice president and his people know this, GOP operatives know this, and even the New York Times knows this.

No amount of list-building or donor glad-handing in 2017 will make any difference.

Anyway, we are now 15 months from the 2018 elections, and Republicans have a few things going for them; but there are also some headwinds blowing.

As a whole, the Republican Party’s machinery is in good shape; especially when compared with the Democrats’. According to the Hill, “The Republican National Committee (RNC) outpaced the Democrats in fundraising in June by over $8 million, raising a staggering $13.5 million compared to the [Democratic National Committee’s] $5.5 million.” Oh and by the way, in June, the DNC incredibly “added $200,000 to their now $3.3 million debt” under its new chairman, Tom Perez. Republicans, on the other hand, are debt-free.

And yet, the tide of history is pushing against Republicans. On average, the president’s party loses 36 seats in the House when presidential approval is below 50 percent. And according to the Cook Political Report, “The president’s party has lost Senate seats in 19 out of 26 midterm elections.” Considering that, according to the Quinnipiac poll, President Trump’s approval just hit 33 percent, the lowest of his presidency, a lot of seats could be at stake in 2018.

These figures are far from determinative, but in politics, what is supposed to happen tends to happen. And what is supposed to happen could spell trouble for Republicans in Congress.

Still, there is anecdotal evidence of the economy picking up. And, at least in my opinion, there is hope that Chief of Staff John F. Kelly will make a positive change in the Trump White House.

Our coalition partners support this administration, and although we still need to pass a budget and raise the debt ceiling, it appears that Republicans are anything but fractured. In fact, Republicans hold a record-high 34 governorships with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice becoming the first governor to switch from Democrat to Republican in a quarter-century. For the GOP majority in Congress, however, it is tax reform or die.

The New York Times sought to fuel speculation and create turmoil in the White House by running its salacious story about Pence, but nothing about the state of Republican politics today has anything to do with GOP calculations for 2020.

The elections in 2018 are what matter. With health care, tax reform and infrastructure, Republicans still control much of their own destiny.