Former Vice President Mike Pence, once known for his unyielding loyalty to former President Donald Trump, has taken a noticeable shift in his stance towards his former boss. After their loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election and the Capitol riot on January 6th, where protesters chanted threats against Pence, the former vice president has broken with Trump and is now vying for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
According to political experts, Pence’s decision to distance himself from Trump is a strategic move to boost his chances of winning the nomination. Other candidates are waiting for Trump’s downfall, but Pence is taking a different approach. National Republican strategist Brian Seitchik believes that Pence’s only option is to go against Trump directly, rather than waiting for an opportunity to swoop up his voters. Seitchik points out that Pence’s low poll numbers and failure to qualify for debates necessitated a change in strategy.
Pence features prominently in the recent indictment filed by special counsel Jack Smith against Trump. Pence’s own notes regarding Trump’s discussion of election fraud are mentioned in the indictment. Despite this, Pence defends his actions during the 2020 election, particularly his refusal to certify the election results as Trump pressured him to do so. Pence stated unequivocally that anyone who prioritizes themselves over the Constitution should never be President of the United States.
.@Mike_Pence, no longer beholden to Trump, isn't hesitating from lobbying attacks against him.
It's a notable shift for Pence, who previously hesitated on harshly criticizing his former boss. But political experts said that it was a necessity.https://t.co/TWWbDVsixw
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) August 4, 2023
In response to Pence’s attacks, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to retaliate. He claimed that Pence was attracting no crowds, enthusiasm, or loyalty, and blamed him for not fighting against election fraud. Trump, who is currently leading in the GOP primary race, remains dismissive of Pence’s campaign.
Pence finds himself in an unusual position as a former vice president running against the president under whom he served. This situation is relatively unprecedented, as usually, the vice president inherits support from the previous administration. According to Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential scholar, Pence’s case is unique in modern times.
The effectiveness of Pence’s new strategy remains uncertain. Critics of Trump who have openly expressed their opinions, such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, have faced backlash and lackluster poll numbers. Pence has not yet qualified for the first Republican National Committee debate, but his campaign is optimistic that he will meet the requirements soon.
Amidst the uncertainty, one thing is clear: Jan. 6 will continue to loom over Pence’s campaign. Goldstein believes that Pence is trying to adapt to the events of that day and make it clear that he refused to violate his oath to the Constitution. Whether or not this strategy will resonate with voters remains to be seen, but Pence’s current anti-Trump stance has certainly garnered media attention.
While some believe Pence’s criticism of Trump might help him gain traction, others are skeptical. Ohio Republican consultant Matt Dole suggests that Pence’s comments may get him media coverage but questions whether it will be enough to sway voters in the long term. Dole believes that candidates opposing Trump need to find a way to chip away at his support, but there is no guarantee of success.
It is evident that Pence faces an uphill battle in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. However, he believes that his best chance lies in going hard against the president. Only time will tell if Pence’s strategy will pay off and if he can successfully differentiate himself from Trump.