Vice President Mike Pence is about to embark on a cross-country summer campaign tour just weeks after filing paperwork to establish his own campaign committee. He has claimed it is just about fundraising for loyal Republican candidates in 2018 but many speculate whether it's about building his own war chest.
Pence is bouncing around Midwestern battleground states and conservative footholds like Georgia where a special election has Republicans running scared, according to Politico. But the trip comes as his boss is being crushed under the weight of scandals.
“He has an appetite to fight so he's going to get out there and fight on the president's behalf,” longtime Pence strategist Nick Ayers told Politico.
It is not unusual for vice presidents to campaign while the president is leading the country. Former Vice President Joe Biden famously traveled to every corner of the country to raise money for Democratic candidates. However, few vice presidents serve under a leader navigating a significant influx of investigations.
"We are in for a turbulent campaign cycle, as nearly all parties in power face during a new president's first midterm,” said George W. Bush's deputy political director Scott Jennings. “But the question is, do you shrink in the face of a tough cycle or do you fight like hell to hold on. And Pence is going to fight like hell, it seems, which will hopefully embolden every candidate out there.”
Politico nails Pence as a quiet and loyal foot soldier, calmly working behind the scenes to accomplish a right wing agenda. But that kind of "behind his back" work that makes President Donald Trump nervous. But thus far, Pence's speeches have been about defending Trump to conservatives, not promoting himself.
"Everything that has been done has been done to advance the president's policies,” Ayers explained.
On the left and in the media, some are diligently plugging away to show that Pence had to have known about campaign ties to Russia. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has done deep dives into the Russia scandal, specifically showing the evidence stacking up against Pence.
“Either they were criminally negligent — or they weren’t and they knew,” Maddow said in March.
“It’s something to pick someone manifestly unfit for the job of National Security Advisor to be National Security Advisor, that’s one thing,” she a few weeks later. “It is another thing when you bring somebody on board to a top national security position while they’re also on the payroll of a foreign government! And you either don’t notice or you don’t care.”
Politico claimed that Republicans are desperate for someone to fill a "political void" while Trump questions the loyalty of a party he's spoken out against.
Pence's team swears he's not promoting his own agenda or candidacy. One Pence aide even evidenced the claim by swearing the first donation from Pence's committee would be a hard money contribution of the federal maximum of $5,400 to Trump's reelection campaign. Staffers swear Pence will be a top tier surrogate that every campaign will want to have help raise money.
“All of this will help him build relationships nationally that he barely had the time to create while on the ticket for four months last fall,” said Republican strategist from Ted Cruz's campaign, Jeff Roe.
Political pundits on "Morning Joe" have alleged that Pence will be done by the end of the investigations into RussiaGate. They attribute it to retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn telling his own story.