STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump’s heir? Pence reemerges, lays groundwork for 2024 run

When former President Donald Trump was asked to list those he considers the future leaders of the Republican Party, he quickly rattled off names including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. Conspicuously absent from the list: Mike Pence.

Posted: Mar 30, 2021 12:42 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — When former President Donald Trump was asked to list those he considers the future leaders of the Republican Party, he quickly rattled off names including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. Conspicuously absent from the list: Mike Pence.

The former vice president is steadily reentering public life as he eyes a potential run for the White House in 2024. He’s joining conservative organizations, writing op-eds, delivering speeches and launching an advocacy group that will focus on promoting the Trump administration’s accomplishments.

But Trump’s neglect in mentioning Pence during a podcast interview earlier this month signals the former vice president’s unique challenge. For someone who built a reputation as one of Trump’s most steadfast supporters, Pence is now viewed with suspicion among many Republicans for observing his constitutional duty in January to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration, a decision that still has Trump fuming.

To prevail in a Republican presidential primary, Pence may have to reinforce his loyalty to Trump while defending his decisions during the final days of the administration when the president falsely alleged widespread voter fraud, contributing to a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. If anyone can achieve this awkward balance, some Republicans say, it’s Pence.

“Anybody who can pull off an endorsement of Ted Cruz and become Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee should not be counted out,” said Republican strategist Alice Stewart, who worked for Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign when Pence endorsed him. “He has a way of splitting hairs and threading the needle that has paid off in the past.”

Pence aides generally brush off talk of the next presidential election. They insist he is focused on his family and next year’s midterm elections, when Republicans are well positioned to regain at least one chamber of Congress. Allies argue that, over time, the anger will subside.

“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,” said Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee and has already endorsed a Pence 2024 run. “If and when Mike Pence steps back up to the plate, I think he will have strong appeal among Republicans nationwide.”

Pence declined to comment for this story. For their part, Trump aides warn against reading too much into the omission during the podcast interview.

“That was not an exclusive list,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Still, Trump continued to deride Pence in the interview, falsely claiming Pence had the authority to unilaterally overturn the results of the election, even though he did not.

Trump has not said whether he will seek the White House again in 2024. If he doesn’t, other Republicans are making clear they won’t cede the race to Pence. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for instance, is already visiting the critical primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Since leaving office in January, Pence, who served as Indiana’s governor and a member of Congress before being tapped as Trump’s running mate, has kept a lower profile. He’s pieced together a portfolio aimed at maintaining influence, paying the bills and laying the groundwork for an expected presidential run.

He’s forged a partnerships with the conservative Heritage Foundation and has even been discussed as a potential president of the organization, according to two people familiar with the discussions. He’s joined the Young America’s Foundation and a top speakers’ bureau, penned an op-ed for the Daily Signal in which he perpetuated falsehoods about the 2020 election, and recently toured a Christian relief organization in North Carolina. He will make his first public speech since leaving office next month at the Palmetto Family Council’s annual fundraiser in South Carolina, another crucial primary state.

Pence has also discussed writing a book, according to aides, has been in continued conversation with his evangelical allies, and plans to spend much of the next two years helping Republican candidates as they try to reclaim House and Senate majorities in 2022. He’s also planning to launch an advocacy organization that aides and allies say will give him a platform to defend the Trump administration’s record and push back on the current president’s policies as he tries to merge the traditional conservative movement with Trumpism.

“He’s doing what he needs to be doing to lay the groundwork in the event he wants to set up an exploratory committee,” Stewart said. “You have to make money, lay the groundwork, gauge the support and then pull the trigger.”

Pence’s allies see him as the natural Trump heir, someone who can keep his base engaged while winning back suburban voters who left the party in droves during the Trump era.

“Obviously Mike Pence has a very different persona, a very different tone. That probably is an understatement,” said former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a longtime friend who now leads the Young America’s Foundation. “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.”

Skeptics, meanwhile, see another old, milquetoast white man saddled with Trump’s baggage, but without his charisma. For these critics, Pence is a sycophant who debased himself for four years to avoid Trump’s wrath — only to take the blame when Trump insisted, wrongly, that Pence could unilaterally overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The anger at Pence took a dangerously personal turn on Jan. 6 when rioters paraded through the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as a mob outside set up a makeshift gallows. During Trump’s impeachment trial for sparking the insurrection, video was presented showing Pence being rushed to safety, sheltering in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters.

Signs that many in the GOP still hold Pence responsible for losing the election have dotted the highway in many Trump strongholds, where masking tape and markers block out his name on Trump-Pence flags and lawn signs.

Meanwhile, others, like Pompeo, are trying to claim the Trump mantle without as much baggage.

“In many ways I think his future’s in Trump’s hands,” longtime Republican pollster Whit Ayres said of Pence. If Trump publicly praises Pence as a loyal lieutenant, Ayers said, he can see him being a viable candidate. But if Trump continues to publicly blame Pence for their loss in November, “he’s toast,” Ayres said.

In the meantime, Pence has tried to project the impression that he and the former president have mended fences, referencing their conversations at a meeting last month with members of the conservative Republican Study Committee. Pence and Trump have spoken multiple times since leaving office, according to aides for both men.

“He was very complementary 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., who attended.

While Johnson acknowledged the tensions during the final days of the administration “obviously adds a degree of difficulty” for Pence, he argued that the former vice president could overcome trepidation with a focus on Trump’s policy achievements.

“He helped achieve those and so lays claim to that legacy,” Johnson said.

“I think if he does get in he’s a viable candidate,” added Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, whose endorsement could provide Pence with a boost if he becomes a candidate. “He’s a force to be reckoned with.”

Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 39°
Robinson
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 37°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 40°
Casey
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
Brazil
Partly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 39°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 39°
More Clouds & Warmer Friday
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Friday: Becoming cloudy, warmer. High: 70°

Image

Shots fired during overnight chase

Image

West Vigo beats Clay City

Image

Northview boys win WIC Track & Field Title

Image

Wyatt Bowden defying the odds on the track

Image

Lupus Awareness Month

Image

NaloxBox seeing results in Vincennes

Image

COVID-19 vaccines and children

Image

There's rain in the forecast - Kevin explains here

Image

Five local groups receive a boost in funding thanks to Duke Energy

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1361569

Reported Deaths: 24671
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook54504110100
DuPage905031279
Will75456990
Lake67145988
Kane58349771
Winnebago33178474
Madison30500519
McHenry28573285
St. Clair27847513
Peoria23094310
Champaign20618145
Sangamon18724234
McLean18138179
Tazewell16938287
Rock Island14970314
Kankakee14176210
Kendall1303893
LaSalle12536243
Macon10750199
DeKalb9856119
Vermilion9628132
Adams8452123
Williamson7428129
Whiteside7160171
Boone669972
Ogle611181
Grundy588775
Clinton575790
Coles568695
Knox5553145
Jackson502464
Henry497066
Livingston481785
Stephenson475381
Woodford473976
Effingham472972
Macoupin469782
Marion4472115
Franklin444874
Monroe435793
Jefferson4291120
Lee416552
Randolph412984
Fulton391955
Morgan388981
Logan386958
Montgomery371974
Bureau371682
Christian365973
Fayette317455
Perry316960
Iroquois301866
McDonough284847
Jersey268949
Douglas258835
Saline256454
Lawrence240525
Shelby229537
Union226040
Crawford211626
Bond204824
Cass199125
Jo Daviess181024
Clark179933
Warren179746
Pike178852
Ford178246
Wayne177553
Hancock175931
Carroll175136
Richland175140
Edgar170239
White169626
Washington164525
Moultrie161028
De Witt150824
Mason150745
Piatt149714
Clay148143
Mercer146933
Johnson143915
Greene143633
Wabash134612
Massac133940
Cumberland129019
Menard123412
Jasper115018
Marshall106918
Hamilton83315
Schuyler7536
Brown7046
Pulaski6887
Stark63723
Edwards56912
Henderson52514
Calhoun5182
Putnam4823
Scott4781
Alexander46811
Gallatin4584
Hardin38612
Pope3204
Out of IL20
Unassigned02351

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 732692

Reported Deaths: 13450
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1002531746
Lake53931975
Allen40779678
St. Joseph35838552
Hamilton35695408
Elkhart28695442
Tippecanoe22419219
Vanderburgh22332397
Porter18838309
Johnson18007379
Hendricks17269315
Clark13007191
Madison12708339
Vigo12470248
LaPorte11970212
Monroe11914170
Delaware10720186
Howard9946216
Kosciusko9438117
Hancock8310141
Bartholomew8078156
Warrick7789155
Floyd7672178
Grant7072174
Wayne7061199
Boone6712101
Morgan6593139
Dubois6162117
Marshall6073111
Cass5826105
Dearborn581878
Henry5758103
Noble562784
Jackson502773
Shelby493196
Lawrence4563120
Harrison436372
Gibson436092
DeKalb429285
Clinton427953
Montgomery425089
Whitley397139
Huntington392980
Steuben389457
Miami382267
Knox372690
Jasper368248
Putnam361660
Wabash354580
Adams341954
Ripley340170
Jefferson331281
White314854
Daviess298199
Wells291881
Decatur285492
Fayette281262
Greene279785
Posey271933
LaGrange267870
Scott266954
Clay260547
Washington241632
Randolph241181
Spencer232431
Jennings230449
Starke217154
Fountain213046
Sullivan212042
Owen201956
Jay196330
Fulton195540
Carroll189420
Orange184154
Perry183537
Rush173725
Vermillion169643
Franklin168435
Tipton163045
Parke146416
Blackford135132
Pike134934
Pulaski116945
Newton108134
Brown102441
Crawford100615
Benton98914
Martin89015
Warren82215
Switzerland7938
Union71010
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417