Former Vice President Mike Pence is steadily returning to the political fold and could be making preparations to run for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, which may pit him against the president he served with, Donald Trump.
Specifically, Pence has joined the Heritage Foundation, probably the most influential conservative think tank in Washington. He is also beginning to write op-eds, giving speeches, and forming a political advocacy organization that will highlight the former president’s administration and accomplishments.
But earlier this month during a podcast, Trump ticked off several names of conservatives he believes are the future of the Republican Party. They included Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Mike Pence’s name wasn’t one of them, however.
It’s not at all clear that Trump has decided to run for another term in about four years when he’ll be 78. In recent weeks he has set up a political action committee and just this week launched a new website that will serve as a conduit to his legions of supporters.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 30, 2021
Equally unclear is whether Pence can garner anywhere near the kind of support his running mate earned during the 2020 election, much of which Trump still retains, according to polling.
That’s because the former VP angered a sizable portion of Trump’s base when he went ahead and counted all electoral votes from states that the Trump campaign and some Republicans claimed were problematic due to pre-election voting rule changes.
And to win over those voters, Pence will have to shore up his allegiance to the former president as well as Trump’s policies, even as he defends his decision to defy Trump and count ballots as the Constitution requires.
That said, the Associated Press noted that Pence is the one Republican who can do it, according to GOP operatives and insiders.
“Anybody who can pull off an endorsement of Ted Cruz and become Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee should not be counted out,” GOP strategist Alice Stewart, who was working for Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign when the future VP endorsed him, told the AP.
“He has a way of splitting hairs and threading the needle that has paid off in the past,” Stewart added.
Still, others say they don’t think Pence is focused at all on 2024, but rather on helping Republicans win back the House and quite possibly even the Senate in 2022 midterms when the GOP is well-positioned to do so.
“I think 2024’s a long time away and if Mike Pence runs for president he will appeal to the Republican base in a way that will make him a strong contender,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chair of the Republican Study Committee who has already backed a 2024 Pence presidential bid, told the AP.
“If and when Mike Pence steps back up to the plate, I think he will have strong appeal among Republicans nationwide,” he added.
Trump allies and former aides also told the AP that no one should try to over-analyze the former president’s omission of Pence’s name during the podcast earlier this month.
“That was not an exclusive list,” adviser Jason Miller told the newswire.
“Obviously Mike Pence has a very different persona, a very different tone. That probably is an understatement,” added former Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, himself a 2016 presidential contender who is now head of the Young America’s Foundation and a friend of the former VP.
“As long as he can still talk about the things that Trump voters care about, but do so in a way that’s more reflective of kind of a Midwesterner, that I think … would be attractive to those voters,” he said.
Aides to both Trump and Pence say they have spoken several times since they have left office, adding that the two have mended fences.
“He was very complimentary of President Trump and he told us that he and President Trump had been talking and reminiscing about the great accomplishments of the administration and all of that,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) of Pence’s speech to the Republican Study Committee last month.
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