Analysis: Pence distances himself from Trump as he eyes 2024 campaign | Government


NEW YORK (AP) — After Donald Trump was caught on camera bragging about sexually assaulting women, Mike Pence stayed on his ticket. As the coronavirus ravaged the United States, the then vice president praised the administration’s response. And after a violent mob threatened his life in an attack on the US Capitol, Pence rejected pleas to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

But after years of being a slavish sidekick, Pence is beginning to distance himself from Trump as he takes increasingly overt steps toward his own White House bid.

Last month, Pence called out Trump by name, saying his former boss was “wrong” to insist he had the power to unilaterally overturn the 2020 election results – a power that vice-presidents presidents do not have. In a separate speech to top Republican donors, Pence urged the GOP to override Trump’s 2020 grievances and said “there is no place in this party for apologists” for Vladimir Putin after Trump hailed the Russian leader’s maneuvers as “brilliant” ahead of his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

The moves show how Pence, a former congressman and governor of Indiana, is struggling to create a political identity independent of his former boss. The strategy carries substantial risks in a party still dominated by Trump and his lie that the 2020 election was stolen. But if Pence successfully navigates this moment, it could offer a model for Republicans to benefit from their work with Trump without being tied to his most toxic behavior, which has consistently hurt the party with crucial suburban voters often determining the elections.

“When you’re in the position of vice president, there are certain opportunities and certainly certain constraints,” said Marc Short, who served as Pence’s White House chief of staff, of the recent moves from Pence. Penny. “You kind of take on a different identity for those four years because your job is to support the president and what he’s doing.”

The aides point out that Pence, who spent decades in conservative radio and politics before joining Trump’s ticket in 2016, has a host of deeply held views and principles, some of which diverge from those of Trump. . They expect him to frequently invoke those views, including his staunch opposition to abortion rights, as he campaigns for Republicans ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

They note in particular that Pence has long been critical of Putin and expect him to continue to speak out on Ukraine. On a trip that seemed to give Pence a presidential aura, he paid an unannounced visit to Ukraine’s border with Poland shortly after the invasion, where he crossed into Ukraine and helped deliver aid to the flood of refugees fleeing the war.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, an evangelist and president of Samaritan’s Purse, the international Christian relief organization that organized Pence’s visit to the Ukrainian border, said Pence’s evolution was natural.

“People see the real Mike Pence. As vice president, you have to toe the president’s line and you have to be in tune with whatever the president says,” Graham said. Now, “people see who he is and what he stands for and what he says. So he’s not repeating what the president says. He says what he believes. …He speaks for himself now not for President Trump.”

Pence has spent the past few months traveling the country, giving political speeches, fundraising for midterm candidates and visiting early voting states, while working on a pair of books. In the coming months, he plans a return visit to Iowa, which is holding the party’s first nominating contests of the presidential election cycle, as well as two visits to South Carolina, another early voting state.

His political group, Advancing American Freedom, announced a $10 million ad campaign targeting congressional Democrats and urging them to support an expansion of US energy production in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And he is preparing to release a new “Freedom Agenda” aimed at providing candidates with a positive political agenda that makes it clear to voters what Republicans are not just against, but what they are for.

He also spent time with major donors. Ahead of his visit to Ukraine, Pence flew to Israel where he had dinner with former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Trump reportedly criticized, and met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Pence also hung out with billionaire donor Miriam Adelson, on whose plane he flew, marking the second time the two have met in recent months.

The efforts also clearly show the path Pence could take if he chooses to enter what could be a crowded 2024 GOP primary contest that could include Trump himself. While there remains a part of the party that will never forgive him for honoring his constitutional role on Jan. 6, allies believe Pence may be in a unique position to merge the mainstream conservative movement with the successes of the Trump administration. -Pence.

Still, early polls show Trump remains the clear favorite among GOP voters if he chooses to mount another race. Without Trump in the race, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appears to be the early frontrunner so far.

Other potential candidates are trying to make similar moves. Mike Pompeo, who served as CIA director and Trump’s secretary of state, for example, recently visited Taiwan and met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, while Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, in a high-profile speech at the Reagan Library, praised Trump’s record while criticizing him for signing bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, speaking Monday at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, a frequent stop for presidential candidates, continued to offer his own critique of Trump, slamming those who have spoke admiringly of Russian President Vladimir Putin and calling Trump “totally wrong about the election.”

“It’s over, everyone. You know the reason why I know? Joe Biden is sleeping in Donald Trump’s bed,” Christie said. “And we need as a party to move forward. We can’t look back. We can’t be a party of revenge and vendettas. We can’t be a party that settles scores.” for me “. We have to be a party that creates opportunities and inspiration ‘for us’.”

So far, Pence has been coy about his plans for the future. Asked on Fox Business if he intends to run, Pence said he is currently focused on 2022.

“In 2023, I am confident that the Republican Party will nominate a candidate who will be the next President of the United States of America,” he continued. “And at the right time, my family and I will think about and consider how we can participate in this process.”

For now, Trump has remained silent on Pence’s attacks, unusual for someone who responds to the most minor slights. Trump’s spokesperson did not respond to questions, but some believe the former president doesn’t want to upset Pence before his book is published and he embarks on a publicity tour.

Yet Trump has made it clear that his anger has not abated.

“Mike and I had a great relationship, except for the really big factor that happened at the end,” Trump told the Washington Examiner in an interview last week. “I haven’t spoken to him in a long time.”

He also ruled out the possibility of another Trump-Pence note.

“I don’t think people would accept it,” said Trump, who pondered other running mates.


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