I'm borrowing Trump's trademark "many people are saying" phraseology because the "people" who are "saying" it appear to be speculating about Trump's reaction, or hearing about it secondhand.
CNN’s John King, reporting from a source close to Trump, that the reviews that Pence did better then he did won’t go over well with Trump— Sam Stein (@samstein) October 5, 2016
Trump adviser on debate after Pence passed up opportunities to defend him: "Pence won overall, but lost with Trump"— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 5, 2016
"Donald Trump is definitely not happy with him," MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski said Wednesday morning. "Trust me."
According to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, however, the GOP presidential nominee is totally not upset. This was her exchange with Brzezinski's co-host, Joe Scarborough, on Wednesday:
SCARBOROUGH: Lemme ask you about just, um, some chatter last night that Donald Trump wasn't happy with Mike Pence ...CONWAY: Absolutely not.SCARBOROUGH: ... because Mike Pence did so well.CONWAY: That's just not true. His last tweet last night was how excited he was, how proud of him he was.They talked last night. I talked to Mr. Trump during the debate several times. And I think, one thing to remember is that as Ronald Reagan always said, "personnel is policy." And Donald Trump has promised as president to surround himself with the best people.
That's a pretty forceful denial by Conway. But it is missing one thing: the part where Trump actually told Conway he is pleased with his running mate. We know what Trump said publicly on Twitter. We also know that "the best people" often means people who won't challenge him. Just look at how many inexperienced aides Trump has hired — and the way he ignores the advice of the relatively few longtime operatives in his orbit.
Maybe Trump did express his enthusiasm about Pence's performance in private. But if he did, why didn't Conway say so?
The idea that Trump would be miffed about being upstaged is, at minimum, consistent with what journalists have come to understand about his personality. That doesn't prove it is true in this particular case, but it is not hard to imagine the billionaire showman gritting his teeth as Pence outshone him — even if Tuesday's debate was good for the Republican ticket overall.