Former Vice President Mike Pence has intensified his political maneuvering in anticipation of a possible 2024 White House bid, which might see him in direct competition with his former running mate and boss, former President Trump.
Pence has been active in political circles recently, speaking at events, making media appearances, and holding meetings – including one with GOP mega-donor Miriam Adelson – to establish a niche for himself in a potentially crowded and contentious Republican field.
“There’s pretty clearly an opportunity for him to come out and say ‘look, we want the Trump policies but let’s have it without the chaos,’” a Republican strategist with experience in presidential campaigns said.
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“Pence is perfectly placed to do that, because he has the credentials of supporting Trump and being loyal through the administration. But he can also kind of meld it with more traditional conservative talking points.”
Pence has sometimes distanced himself from – and even criticized – Trump, who represents the modern GOP and is possibly looking to make another run for the White House in 2024.
Pence said this week “there is no room” for “apologists” of Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the Republican Party, a reference to Trump’s statement that Putin was a “genius” for the invasion of Ukraine.
The vice president also firmly rejected Trump’s assertion last month that he had the power to alter the results of the 2020 election, saying the former president was “wrong.”
Despite that, the former vice president is embracing parts of Trump’s agenda – withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, for example, or opening up public lands to oil and gas exploration – signaling that he’s still hoping to win over some of Trump’s voters.
He has sought, however, to offer a vision that is more forward-looking. At a meeting with GOP donors on Friday, Pence warned that Republicans “cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles or by relitigating the past.”
“Elections are about the future,” he stated. “My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values.”
Pence’s more aggressive posture is, in part, a political gamble that the Republican Party and its voters are increasingly interested in going beyond Trump, as well as positioning himself as a clear successor to Obama’s political movement and legacy.
Some Republicans believe that the former vice president’s time is running out.
“Pence is in a great position. He’s got a national profile. He was the guy’s vice president. He can say you can get what you wanted with Trump without all the issues,” says Republican strategist Keith Naughton. “I think the problem is he’s losing relevance fast. It’s draining away.”
Taking on Trump and pitching himself as the GOP’s future standard-bearer is among Pence’s challenges, Naughton said. Despite protesting Republicans who praise Putin, he did not mention his ex-boss by name.
Even when he pushed back against Trump’s narrative that Pence could block the congressional certification process, he did not specifically state that Trump lost the 2020 election nor did he refute the former president’s claims that the election was rigged.
Meanwhile, Naughton said, many Republican voters have been eyeing other potential contenders, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is more readily associated with Trump.
“[Pence] has been afraid to mark out that territory,” Naughton explained. “And DeSantis is filling the vacuum.”
Still, Pence has not joined other potential Republican presidential candidates in promising not to run if Trump runs again in 2024. While Pence told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo that he was working to help Republicans in this year’s midterms, he also hinted that he might run for president in 2024.
“In 2023, I’m confident the Republican Party will nominate a candidate who will be the next president of the United States of America,” Pence declared. “And at the right time, my family and I will reflect and consider how we might participate in that process.”
Currently, Pence faces an uphill battle to win the Republican nomination in 2024.
A straw poll conducted by the Conservative Political Action Conference late last month found Pence achieving just 1 percent of support for the GOP nomination – with or without Trump. Pence was conspicuously absent from that event.
According to a Yahoo! News/YouGov poll conducted at the end of February, the former vice president came in third place behind Trump and DeSantis in a hypothetical GOP primary. The former vice president received 8 percent of the vote.
Trump was interviewed on the “Full Send Podcast,” yesterday. He was asked if he is going to run again.
Bob Menery, one of the hosts of the show, asked the former president, “The question is, Don, you’ve hinted at it, are you coming back and gonna run for President of the United States?”
Trump replied, “The campaign finance laws don’t really allow you to discuss that unless you’re going to literally go through a different process. So, I think a lot of people are going to be really happy. You guys might be really happy but I think a lot of people are going to be very happy. But, I’ll wait.”
Trump basically confirmed he’s running again in 2024 on the Full Send Podcast. pic.twitter.com/T5tX2zlUZQ
— p 🇧🇷 (@PauloNoggy) March 9, 2022