Five takeaways on Mike Pence’s political future

Former Vice President Mike Pence is back in the spotlight as he promotes his new memoir, offering fresh insights on his relationship with former President Trump and his own political ambitions.

Pence’s new book was released on Tuesday, with much of the focus centering on the rift between he and Trump in the days before and after the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol. Pence has since conducted nearly 30 interviews, giving a window into his time in the White House and his plans for the future.

Here are five takeaways from Pence’s recent book release and accompanying media blitz.

Pence is seriously considering a 2024 bid

The former vice president used a series of interviews and media appearances in the wake of his book release to hint at a possible presidential campaign of his own.

“I think the American people are looking for leadership that can unite our country, around our most timeless values and ideals, and demonstrate the kind of civility and respect that Americans show one another every day,” Pence said in a CNN town hall event on Thursday.

“And so, we’ll take time, at the end of the year. We’ll get prayerful consideration to what role we might have. But I promise you, Jake, I’ll keep you posted,” he continued. “And we’ll stay in the fight for our values, and do everything, in our part, to strengthen and serve the country we love. So help us God.”

When asked if he would support Trump as a 2024 nominee, Pence quipped in multiple recent appearances that he has someone else in mind, a tongue-in-cheek nod to his own possible ambitions.

Pence has taken steps typically associated with someone interested in a presidential campaign in recent months, visiting early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and launching his own policy group.

But his comments in the wake of the book release are a more concrete sign that Pence views himself as a presidential contender, regardless of what Trump does.

Pence thinks the GOP should move on from Trump

Whether or not Pence himself runs, the former vice president has made it clear through interviews in recent days that he does not believe Trump should be the party’s standard-bearer moving forward.

“I think, in the days ahead, whatever role I and my family play in the Republican Party, whether it’s as a candidate or simply a part of the cause, I think we will have better choices … than my old running mate,” Pence told CNN.

It was a line Pence used in several interviews on his post-book release media blitz, telling ABC News, The New York Times and others that he felt there would be “better choices” than Trump.

Pence has made clear that he does not agree with Trump’s fixation on the 2020 election, arguing GOP candidates who focused on past grievances did not fare as well in the midterms as those who presented a forward-looking agenda.

And the former vice president has in recent days asserted the American public is looking for more civil discourse and candidates who embody the country’s values, a swipe at Trump’s divisive and incendiary rhetoric directed toward his opponents and critics, including, at times, Pence.

But he won’t back away from Trump’s record

Pence’s book details how he and Trump went their “separate ways” over Trump’s fixation on the 2020 election and his conduct around Jan. 6, when Pence had to be evacuated from the Senate chamber.

But much of his book and the accompanying press tour has shown that Pence is proud of his time in the administration outside of the roughly two months following the 2020 election, and he’s happy to embrace his connection to Trump for much of their four years together.

“I hope people that take a look at this book also see that it’s been described as the most fulsome defense of the record of the Trump-Pence administration that’s in print,” Pence said at an event on Thursday at the Reagan Library in California, saying he “couldn’t be more proud” to have been vice president given the administration’s economic, energy and foreign policy accomplishments.

“We accomplished things that conservatives have been talking about for generations,” Pence added.

Pence is trying to thread the needle with the GOP base

The former vice president has made it clear that as he mulls his future, he is going to try to thread a very difficult needle, appealing both to Trump supporters and those ready to move on from the former president.

Pence has been asked mostly about the events surrounding Jan. 6. He has in recent interviews called Trump’s conduct “reckless,” said the former president was part of the problem on Jan. 6 and spoken about how the party should move on from Trump in 2024.

At the same time, Pence is reluctant to criticize Trump’s other behavior. In his book, Pence defends Trump over his response to the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist rally, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic when he used briefings to spar with the press and attack local leaders, and his walk to St. John’s Church near the White House after protesters were forcibly cleared from the area.

“Mike Pence is twisting himself into pretzels as he attempts to remake his image — but the truth is that no matter how desperately he tries to have it both ways on Trump’s brand of MAGA extremism, he’s still doused in it,” the Democratic National Committee said in a news release.

Republican strategists and former Trump administration officials have argued for months that Pence was a loyal sidekick for four years with conservative bona fides, but that he would struggle to win over Trump’s devoted base in a potential primary because they view his decision to certify the 2020 election as a betrayal, even if he had no grounds to do otherwise.

Polls have typically shown Pence trailing Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in a hypothetical 2024 primary.

“If decency and kindness matters, Mike Pence will be a serious contender,” said David Urban, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. “But politics is a lot more than that.”

Pence will remain in the public eye

Pence appears poised to use his book release and subsequent media blitz as a jumping off point to remain in the public eye as the 2024 Republican primary field takes shape.

A spokesperson for Pence said the former vice president had conducted 27 media interviews in the 48 hours after his book was released last Tuesday.

The former vice president was in Nevada over the weekend for the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas, which was also attended by prospective 2024 candidates like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump addressed the event virtually.

Pence has additional interviews scheduled for after Thanksgiving, and a spokesperson said Pence will be doing a speaking tour next year with stops at various megachurches around the country.

Via The Hill

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