Former Vice President Mike Pence has taken a long time to strike out at Donald Trump for placing him in danger at the 2021 Capitol riot — but Pence's advisers convinced him to finally hit hard at his old boss at the Gridiron dinner, they told Politico.
They viewed the event — a white-tie event thrown by journalists in Washington — as an "opportunity" for Pence clearly "amplify" what he has already more quietly expressed: that Trump's baseless rigged election claim, and his firing up of the mob of his supporters who called for Pence to be "hanged," put him and his family in extreme danger.
"Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way," Pence declared at the Gridiron dinner Saturday night. "His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Pence's advisers were convinced that the hard-hitting remarks would begin to forge Pence's profile as a presidential candidate and help "win over his most skeptical audience" — Washington insiders and journalists, who have already largely discounted him in a presidential primary, Politico added.
“This was a different audience for him,” Marc Short, Pence’s former vice presidential chief of staff and his senior adviser, told Politico. And his dangerous experience has landed him in a unique position, said Short.
“Mike is in a different place where he can be sort of free and liberated in ways that I don’t think others in the field are,” Short explained to Politico. “I believe that he’s got a good pathway forward.”
One source noted that Pence has more room to grow — with more of an upside — among Republican primary voters than a rival like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor already has to fill huge expectations as a “combination of Ronald Reagan and Willie Nelson and Bono all wrapped up into one," said the source.
Those close to Pence are working to bring out his warmer, more personable side, according to the report, making sure his campaign events will include things like fireside chats.
He also doesn't want to make the press the enemy, as Trump has. Pence even praised the media in his comments Saturday. “We were able to stay at our post in part because you stayed at your post,” he told reporters at the dinner who covered the Capitol siege. “The American people know what happened that day because you never stopped reporting.”
Pence, who has yet to declare that he's running for the Republican presidential nomination, will next "campaign" in New Hampshire on Thursday and Iowa on Saturday, two early GOP primary states, Politico noted.