Mike Pence spent a lot of his vice presidency quietly catering to the whims of President Donald Trump. However on January 6, he broke with Trump by refusing to overturn the 2020 election outcomes. And now, Pence is eyeing a presidential run of his personal, though his outdated boss hasn’t dominated out a 2024 marketing campaign. Pence wouldn’t essentially keep out of the race even when Trump jumps in.
“If the Pences, they’ll at all times attempt to discern the place they’re being known as to serve,” Marc Quick, Pence’s former chief of workers, informed me. “And I don’t suppose that’s depending on who else is in or not within the race.”
A 2024 Pence marketing campaign seems futile regardless of the situation. If Trump runs, he’ll rally the identical MAGA zealots who refuse to consider he misplaced the final election. And if Trump opts out, Pence isn’t his pure successor; he could have spoiled any hope of inheriting the Republican base when he defied Trump on January 6. Scanning the Republican universe, it’s exhausting to detect a glimmer of a Pence-for-president motion of any kind. Which leaves GOP operatives asking a model of the identical query: What on the planet is Mike Pence pondering?
Sarah Longwell is an anti-Trump Republican strategist who has led dozens of focus teams for the reason that 2020 election with hard-core Trump voters, reluctant Trump voters, and 2016 Trump voters who switched to Joe Biden final 12 months. “Pence doesn’t do effectively with anyone,” she informed me. Individuals make faces when she mentions Pence’s identify, faces that convey a collective nah. Or possibly meh, she stated, pondering it over. However the impression they depart is clear sufficient, she added: “Not .”
As of this level, Pence hasn’t determined whether or not to run, his advisers say. For now, he’s targeted on serving to Republicans win again congressional majorities within the 2022 midterm elections. However he’s additionally making the kinds of strikes that sometimes precede a presidential bid. Since leaving workplace on January 20, he’s been displaying up in states that maintain early presidential contests: New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Iowa. Subsequent month he’s set to return to New Hampshire for a Republican fundraising occasion. He’s writing a ebook and has began a podcast, American Freedom, that may be a platform to reintroduce himself to voters after 4 years as Trump’s largely subservient No. 2. Talking in a flat baritone, the erstwhile talk-radio host mixes treacly odes to public service with sharp critiques of Biden’s file. One episode dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist assaults opens with Pence denouncing “the failed management of the Biden administration” and closes with a vignette of him and different lawmakers singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol after the assaults.
“I’ll let you know, on that day and within the weeks and months that adopted, there have been no Republicans in Washington, D.C.,” Pence tells his listeners. “There have been no Democrats in Washington, D.C. It was simply Individuals. All people rolled up their sleeves and did what wanted to be accomplished.” (Left unsaid is that he later abetted a president who politicized just about each random little bit of human expertise, together with carrying a mask and watching a football game, and who stirred up the insurrectionists earlier than what was maybe essentially the most unsettling day on U.S. soil since 9/11.)
Former Vice President Dan Quayle has informed me that he suggested Pence again in 2012 that if he needed to run for president, the Indiana governor’s workplace can be a greater springboard than Congress. (Pence campaigned for the statehouse workplace that 12 months and gained.) A chilly-eyed political calculus means that 2024 can be Pence’s finest and possibly final actual shot. He’ll be 65 by the subsequent inauguration, and brisker faces are rising in Republican politics, notably Glenn Youngkin, the incoming Virginia governor who gained a state that Biden had captured a 12 months in the past by 10 factors. “Somebody like Glenn Youngkin is the long run,” Sarah Chamberlain, the president of the Republican Major Road Partnership, a bunch that promotes centrist insurance policies, informed me. “He can be an exquisite presidential candidate.”
Nonetheless, Pence has been mulling a presidential run for years, and such ambitions aren’t simply quashed. He stays in demand for GOP fundraising and marketing campaign occasions, a method to cement alliances. Some Republicans see a rationale for Pence’s potential candidacy constructed on his conservative credentials.
Pence’s possibilities within the ’24 race brighten if Trump stays out. Proper now, Trump is sounding like a candidate, although some individuals who have labored with him suspect he’ll finally stand down. “Trump gained’t run,” John Kelly, who was Trump’s longest-serving chief of workers, informed me. “He’ll proceed speaking about it; he could even declare, however he is not going to run. And the reason being he merely can’t be seen as a loser.” John Bolton, who was Trump’s former nationwide safety adviser, predicted a lot the identical factor.
No matter Trump’s future, for Pence to be aggressive in a Republican presidential major race, he’d have to assemble a coalition of fellow evangelical Christians, cultural conservatives, and a bit of mainstream Republicans who recognize that he upheld Biden’s victory. Pence’s apostasy on January 6 drew Trump’s ire, however his actions that day helped protect the notion that voters decide the winners. Is anybody prepared to provide him credit score? Maybe, however it’s additionally a good wager those that would possibly accomplish that nonetheless resent Pence for obliging Trump by years of chaos.
It’s exhausting to not see Pence because the creator of his personal misfortune. Listening to his podcast, one hears a politician who feels like a throwback to a pre-Trump period. He criticizes the Biden administration for “one disaster after one other” although the twice-impeached Trump presided over the lengthiest government shutdown in historical past and a pandemic. Pence tsk–tsks about graffiti scrawled on a federal constructing in Portland, Oregon, with out mentioning that the insurrectionists unfold feces by the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
Trump dismantled the Republican Get together and remade it right into a car for his personal promotion. Pence enabled that makeover. But he’s now performing as if the outdated institution celebration that gave rise to Bob Dole and Howard Baker remains to be intact and his to reclaim.
“He stood by whereas the celebration was actively modified by Trump, and now it’s not eager about politicians like him anymore,” Longwell stated.
What, then, is Pence pondering? Possibly that if a former reality-TV star can upend the legal guidelines of politics and develop into president, so can he.
Pence is “probably the most likable folks in both celebration,” Mick Mulvaney, one other former Trump White Home chief of workers, informed me. And but: “What’s Mike Pence providing that 15 different folks aren’t providing—apart from having been vp, which I’m undecided may be very compelling nowadays.”