According to a report from the Guardian, despite saying he has yet to make up his mind about a 2024 presidential run, former vice president Mike Pence is doing all the legwork needed to keep his name in front of conservatives in case Donald Trump steps aside due to disinterest or legal problems.
However, as the Guardian's David Smith wrote, Pence has multiple hurdles that could keep him from winning in a general election should he be the Republican Party's standard-bearer.
Problem number one, Smith notes, is the continuing presence of Trump as a possible candidate or not.
"The ex-president, whom Pence served faithfully – or obsequiously, in the eyes of critics – has not forgiven him for ignoring his plea to overturn the result of the 2020 election. That Pence, presiding over the Senate as it certified Biden’s victory, had no such power has become irrelevant at this stage," Smith wrote. "Pence’s continued insistence that he did his constitutional duty on 6 January has done little to assuage the sense of betrayal among livid Trump supporters."
That sentiment was echoed by former Republican spokesperson Kurt Bardella.
“His biggest challenge is the people that he’s going to need to vote for him – the Republican primary base – are also the people who wanted to hang him on January 6. I don’t see how you overcome that,” Bardella stated, with Smith adding, "Pence’s continued insistence that he did his constitutional duty on 6 January has done little to assuage the sense of betrayal among livid Trump supporters. In June, he was heckled as a 'traitor' during a speech to a gathering of religious conservatives in Orlando, Florida – hardly a positive omen."
The Guardian report goes on to add that Pence is trying to play it both ways by selling himself as "Donald Trump without the violence," while also avoiding angering the former president and his base with direct attacks which, in turn, could be off-putting with Republicans who became "never Trumpers" and fled the party.
"Should he secure the nomination, however, Pence would be hard pushed to win over millions of Trump critics who have not forgotten how he failed to speak out or take a principled stand during four years of chaos," Smith wrote. "There are countless hours of footage of him giving speeches in which he mentions 'President Trump' over and over again, praising his 'leadership' and calling him 'my friend.'"
According to Bardella, that reputation may be hard to shake.
“Mike Pence will be regarded for what he is, which is a coward void of any real moral conviction or principles," Bardella explained. "The fact that he is turning around now, still trying to court the hearts and minds and votes of the very people who perpetrated the domestic terrorist attack on our country illustrates that he is the worst kind of political figure because, even though he may not believe these things, he’s still pandering and catering to those elements. I don’t believe that history will look back on him kindly at all.”
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