Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday sought to dampen speculation that he is preparing for a White House bid on his own in 2020, calling the notion ''both laughable and absurd.''
In what he called ''My statement regarding the absurd @NYTimes article,'' he said, ''My entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the President's agenda and see him re-elected in 2020.'' He also praised President Trump's work on job creation, rebuilding the military and fighting terrorism.
The statement came in the wake of a New York Times story that detailed early steps that Pence and other Republicans are purportedly taking that are consistent with preparing for a 2020 campaign, even though Trump has given no indication that he doesn't plan to run.
The NYT article says that though President Trump's first term is just warming up, luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 - acting as if the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren't involved.
The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party's most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles, though Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term, it says.
It further says that Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence's schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he 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.
The actions, in some cases, have suggested a lack of confidence that Trump will serve out his term or choose to seek re-election, according to an article on the issue in The Washington Post.
The president has been saddled with job approval numbers that are at historic lows and is facing a special counsel probe of his 2016 campaign.
''The American people know that I could not be more honoured to be working side by side with a president who is making America great again,'' Pence said, asserting that the media has been trying to divide the Trump administration.
Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the president, said during an appearance Sunday on ABC News's ''This Week'' that she has ''zero concern'' about a 2020 campaign by Pence.
She told host George Stephanopoulos, ''The president says privately and publicly often, George, that he'll be there for seven-and-half more years. ''So he plans on being a two-term president.''
Conway also chided fellow GOP operatives said to be pushing the notion of a 2020 ''shadow campaign'' to succeed Trump.
''Most of the people quoted, most involved, I'm sure, have never won a national political campaign like the one I was involved in and you were involved in years ago,'' Conway told Stephanopoulos, who was a top aide to Bill Clinton during his 1992 presidential campaign.
''Some of them are still not supporting their party and their party's main points of view on tax reform, on health reform, on putting [the Islamic State] in retreat, if not full defeat,'' she added.