Pence could win in 2024 — if he hangs Trump out to dry: biographer
Trump kissing Mike Pence (Photo: Screen capture)

Tom LoBianco, a biographer of former Vice President Mike Pence, penned a glowing editorial for Vanity Fair arguing that the former running mate of Donald Trump could be the shadow front-runner of 2024. Pence's problem, however, is that Trump would stop any efforts for him. Eliminating Trump could give Pence a pathway to the presidency, but it could also infuriate the Trump base he would need to make it through a primary election.

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack, said Tuesday that speaking to Pence is a high priority for the committee. Pence hasn't yet been subpoenaed, but earlier this month Thompson indicated that they'd ask the former VP to testify voluntarily.

Over the weekend, Pence aides told the New York Times that he's leaning against cooperating because of what they described as the partisan turn the committee has taken. According to the report, Pence thinks that the votes to hold Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena is "partisan."

Of the 300 witnesses who have spoken to the committee, only two have refused. In the case of Bannon, the short-lived White House aide attempted to declare executive privilege despite not working in the executive branch during or in the lead-up to Jan. 6. Trump adviser Peter Navarro revealed in his recent book that he conspired with Bannon to line up 100 Republican officials willing to oppose the election results. Bannon is now trying to use the contempt trial to obtain documents from President Joe Biden's administration.

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Mark Meadows was still serving as the White House chief of staff, but he recently published a book in which he openly described what happened on Jan. 6. The story claims Trump was watching the attacks unfold on television and that he had to beg Ivanka Trump twice to help speak to her father. Meadows has already turned over a score of documents, including text messages outing Fox network hosts demanding Trump stop the attack while pretending to support it on television. Meadows then quit cooperating with the committee, claiming they didn't respect "boundaries." But reports around the same time said that Trump was furious with Meadows for what was revealed in his book.

The way Pence could cooperate without infuriating the Trump base is if pressured through subpoenas. Other Trump officials have not been willing to deal with criminal contempt. Pence could easily make the case that it wouldn't bode well for a former VP to deny a subpoena or risk criminal contempt charges. He also has an "out" when being asked questions about the executive branch by declaring privilege.

"For a long time, the conventional wisdom among Republicans has been that Trump ended Pence’s political career on Jan. 6, convincing his die-hard base that Pence was the Benedict Arnold of their revolution," LoBianco wrote in his editorial.

He thinks that Trump's efforts have had the opposite effect, citing Republican operative Scott Reed saying, "Pence’s political stock continues to rise every month while Trump relitigating his loss to Biden makes him look smaller in the rearview mirror."

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In some ways, Pence's moves on Jan. 6 could have mainstreamed a Republican known for fringe beliefs about LGBTQ people. Pence has been so obsessed with LGBTQ people, in fact, Trump would joke that he wanted to hang them all. But up against Trump's crazed conspiracy rant about the 2020 election, Pence could seem moderate to some disenchanted Republican voters. While that might help in a general election, the sect in the GOP doesn't dominate the party anymore.

LoBianco also argued that because Trump has been shut down from social media that he no longer enjoys the power to bring down those he feels slighted him. While social media may not control Trump's narrative, the former president is still pulling in buckets of cash through merchandise and aggressive fundraising. None of that money is being spent on the many legal problems Trump is facing, as the Republican Party agreed to foot the bill on those if he promised not to start a competing party. Since 2015, Trump has racked up well over $60 million in legal fees paid for by the GOP.

After taking some time off, Pence has spent a lot of time traveling to early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire and "headlining donor confabs" while Trump has been missing from the typical world of Republican politics.

LoBianco closed by comparing Pence to newly elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA), who embraced Trump while also pushing him away.

Read the full pro-Pence column at Vanity Fair.