AP interview: Pence says voters want new leadership

Mike Pence

Former Vice President and Mike Pence said Wednesday that voters are “looking for new leadership” following the disappointing midterm elections for Republicans, who are now openly debating whether his onetime boss, Donald Trump, should maintain a leading role in the party.

In an interview with The Associated Press just hours after Trump announced another White House run, the former Indiana governor declined to say whether the thinks the former president is fit to return to his old job. But he implicitly positioned himself as a potential alternative for Republicans seeking conservative leadership without the chaos of the Trump era.

”I think we will have better choices in 2024,” Pence said. “I’m very confident that Republican primary voters will choose wisely.” He said that he and his family will gather over the holidays “and we’ll give prayerful consideration to what our role might be in the days ahead.”

Asked whether he blamed Trump for this week’s Republican losses, he said, “Certainly the president’s continued efforts to relitigate the last election played a role, but … each individual candidate is responsible for their own campaign.”

Pence, while considering a presidential campaign of his own, has been raising his profile as he promotes his new memoir, “ So Help Me God,” which was released on the same day that Trump made official his long-teased White House bid. If Pence moves forward, he would be in direct competition with Trump, a particularly awkward collision for the former vice president, who spent his four years in office defending Trump, refusing to criticize him publicly until after Jan. 6, 2021.

That’s when a mob of Trump’s supporters—driven by Trump’s lie that Pence could somehow reject the election results—stormed the Capitol building while Pence was presiding over the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. The vice president was steered to safety with his staff and family as some in the mob chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

Still, Pence on Wednesday remained largely reticent to criticize Trump beyond the insurrection. That hesitance reflects the reality that the former president remains enormously popular with the GOP base that Pence would need to win over to be competitive in primary contests.

“It wasn’t exactly the style of presidency that I would have advanced had I been the first name on the ballot,” Pence said of his unlikely partnership with Trump. “But it was his presidency and I was there to support him and help him. And until that fateful day in January 2021, I sought to do just that.”

Pence said he hadn’t watched Trump’s full announcement speech on Tuesday, but made the case that voters are looking for a new, less contentious direction.

“You know, the president has every right to stand for election again,” he said. But after traveling the country campaigning with midterm candidates, “I have a genuine sense that the American people are looking for new leadership that could unite our country around our highest ideals and that would reflect the respect and civility the American people show to one another every day, while still advancing the policies that we advanced during those years of service,” he said.

Trump’s campaign launch comes as Republicans grapple with fallout from elections in which they failed to wrest control of the Senate and are on track to win only the narrowest majority in the House. Those results came despite voters’ deep concerns over inflation and the direction of the country under Democrat Biden.

Trump endorsed a long list of candidates in competitive states including Pennsylvania and Arizona who then lost their general election races. While Pence said he was pleased Republicans were taking the House, he acknowledged the election “wasn’t quite the red wave that we all had hoped for.”

“My conclusion,” he said, “is the candidates that were focused on the future, focused on the challenges the American people are facing today and solutions to those challenges did quite well.” But those still questioning the 2020 results—as Trump demanded—“did not do as well.”

In his new book, Pence writes in detail about his experience on Jan. 6, and he expounded on that Wednesday.

“I’ll never forget the simmering indignation that I felt that day, seeing those sights on the cellphones as we gathered in the loading dock below the Senate chamber. I couldn’t help but think not this, not here, not in America,” he said.

In the interview, he recalled his reaction to Trump’s tweets “that criticize me directly at a time that a riot was raging in the Capitol hallways.”

“The president’s words were reckless, and they endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol building,” he said. “The president had decided to be a part of the problem. I was determined to be a part of the solution.”

Asked what consequences Trump should face for his actions, however, Pence punted.

“That’s up to the American people,” he said he believes. “I truly do. And look, I’ll always be proud of the record of the Trump administration for four-and-a-half years. President Trump was not just my president. He was my friend. And we worked closely together to advance the policies that we’d been elected to serve.”

“It didn’t end well,” he acknowledged, in an understatement. “And that tragic day in January will always be a day of great sadness for me, a sadness about what had happened to our relationship, to the bad advice the president was accepting from a group of lawyers that, as I write in my book, should never have been allowed on the White House grounds, let alone in the Oval Office. ”

Pence and Trump were always an odd couple—a pugilistic, crude New York celebrity and a staid Midwestern evangelical who once wrote an essay on the evils of negative campaigning and who, as a rule, says he will not dine alone with a woman who is not his wife. Asked why he so rarely spoke up when Trump launched deeply personal insults against figures such as the late Sen. John McCain, Pence said, in effect, that that was what he had had signed up for.

“As his vice president, I believed it was my role to be loyal to the president,” he said. “And so every step of the way, the way I squared it was I believe that I had been elected vice president to support the presidency that Donald Trump had been elected to advance.”

Indeed, Pence in the book writes that even after Jan. 6, the two men “parted amicably when our service to the nation drew to a close.”

“And in the weeks that followed, from time to time, he would call me and to speak and check in,” Pence said in the interview. “But when he returned to criticizing me and others who had upheld the Constitution that day, I just decided I’d be best to go our separate ways. And we have.”

Asked why he would part “amicably” with Trump given the president’s actions—including his decision not to call Pence to check in on his safety while the riot was underway—Pence said he believed the president had been genuinely regretful when they met for the first time after the 6th.

“For the balance of about 90 minutes, we sat, we talked. I was very direct with the president. I made it clear to him that I believe that I did my duty that day, and I sensed genuine remorse on his part,” Pence recalled. “The president and I had forged not only a good working relationship, but a friendship over four-and-a-half years. We worked together literally every day. But he was different in that time. I encouraged him to take the matter to prayer.”

As for his plans for the future, as everyone asks whether he plans to run, he and his family will gather over the holidays “and we’ll give prayerful consideration to what our role might be in the days ahead.”

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

14 thoughts on “AP interview: Pence says voters want new leadership

    1. To be fair, he was not a follower Jan 6th. It would have been easy to follow his boss off the proverbial cliff, but he honored his oath.

    2. Correct. He is an archetypal Indiana politician. A career Veep. It’s not mere chance that Indiana has been home to the highest concentration of Vice Presidents of any state in the Union.

      While he showed the predictable neo-con cowardice in not standing up to what was obviously a rigged election rife with corruption that the legacy media didn’t investigated (because it supported it), he did exactly what the swamp wants. And though his general “decent guy” routine helped keep him from getting fully engulfed, the swamp lapped at his boot the entire time, and he finally untied it, gave it to them, wriggled his way out, dusted himself off, and now seems to think he’ll be able to curry favor in two fronts by continuing to straddle a fence. Not happening. His political career is as defunct as the people he endorsed. The tree is thirstier than ever.

    3. Wow Lauren. Your comments always give me a chuckle, but this one deserves some kind of award for absurdity.

    4. Lauren B. is under a lot of stress until the race for Lauren Boebert is called.

      I mean, 0-60 in election court cases and the only Supreme Court justice who even bothered to listen before sending Trump away was the one who should have recused himself since his wife was texting the insurrectionists.

      And the problem is the “swamp”, not the low quality America-hating individuals like Steve Bannon behind this nonsense. May they and their crypto pyramid schemes go to prison.


    5. Nothing be a greater compliment than being called into question by the most vocal and virulent swamp-defenders, Joe and Wesley. Brent, Frankie–whither art thou?

      How do you all enjoy the visible evidence of social collapse and unraveling happening almost exclusively in our bright blue bubbles? Are you really going to normalize open unsubtle shoplifting and street-pooping? And do you really think that normalization of this is going to lead to good things?

      Now you’re even resorting to the same terminology as the right-wing fundies of yesteryear (“America hating”) back when they were the vigilant guardians of the status quo. Now that you are, you’re appropriating their vernacular. Cute!

      I shouldn’t have to give my independent moderate bona fides, but I’ll do it anyway:
      – still fundamentally pro choice (but serious reservations beyond first trimester, potentially further in some situations)
      – still pro gay marriage (but it doesn’t need to be ramrodded into kindergarten classrooms for those who do not have and should not have carnal knowledge…and private businesses shouldn’t be forced to accept it)
      – still want compassion and sympathy for people who suffer gender dysphoria (but affirmation should be a last resort
      – still fine with legalization of marijuana (but it should be up to each jurisdiction to decide, and consequences reckless use should be as carefully scrutinized as consumption of alcohol)
      – still even think affirmative action may have some legitimacy in select homogeneous industries like pilots or bricklayers or oil rig workers (but under highest scrutiny and with the goal to repeal it eventually as it increasingly violates the Civil Rights Act)
      – still would support a Hogsett third term (but not as a validation of his performance–it’s been mediocre at best–but to fend off a likely worse candidate who would go full Ted Wheeler or Lori Lightfoot)
      – still support body cams on cops (but would extend that to cameras in classrooms, now that cameras are cheap and teachers clearly need as much scrutiny as law enforcement)

      With the “still” and “but” I assert the attempt to find a center, not to move with the times. Because there’s no such thing as “progress” and anyone who says otherwise is a narcissist who just wants to dictate how you should live. Humans are too wretched to progress.

      But yes, I’m still far-right…yawn. And “America hating”. I mean, do Democratic gatherings even fly the flag? It’s certainly not the Bannonites who are trying to eliminate the pledge of allegiance? Do the Thomas Friedmanites among IBJ really see none of the “Discontents” to globalization? That basically every First World country has an Orange Buffoon equivalent and they aren’t going away? That, if the Orange Buffoon were just “more of the same”, there’d be no reason to rig elections or harness the entire media/tech/corporate/nonprofit establishment to take him down? Is there not even a modicum of curiosity about why so many people seek populism, and that it won’t go away when the Orange Buffon croaks in the next decade or so? Why is a fetching, extraordinarily average country girl like Lauren Bobert a colossal threat? And why is there such zeal in going after “election deniers” of one stripe (Hillary, Stacey Abrams, etc are A-OK) if it’s ludicrous to suggest it? If you laugh it off, isn’t it far more likely to go away–while suppressing it only causes it to metastasize?

      In 2016 or so I began to realize I was wrong about the Democratic Party. And the last month proved I was wrong about the Republican Party, the party I disfavored for more than half my life. One is certainly less awful than the other, but until either party recognizes the economic 2s and 3s (on a scale of 1 to 5), the problems and the social tension will only grow. Justifiably. The tree is thirsty.

    6. You didn’t answer my question on election fraud, nor have you produced any of your superior news sources since the IBJ, the AP, WSJ, Washington Post, etc…. are all liberal trash. Reminder, one link a post.

      0-60 in election court cases. Even worse than Trump did with his endorsed candidates in 2022. Explain to me how Lauren B’s race goes to a recount when she’s in a district she should win by she wasn’t traipsing around like a member of the new global elite?

      I know exactly why populism is doing so well. I also know it never works out when it’s been tried around the globe Explain to me how populism will work this time when it’s failed every other time it’s been attempted? Once you overthrow “the elite”. those who replace them become … the elite. And, by the way, odds and you aren’t one of those new elite. You become just another warm body to be sent to the front for a dumb war some day, like all those folks who thought “why go so hard after Putin?” 20 years ago and now are going off to fight against Ukraine with a crappy, rusty Russian weapon. It’s just a scam, like crypto.

      If you’re so upset about the global elite and actually wanted to stave off populism, pass some campaign finance laws and ban super PAC’s. And stop trying to convince anyone that moderates repeat the “tree is thirsty” garbage.

    7. Well said, Lauren, as usual. No amount of proof as to certain 2020 election irregularities would convince Wesley, Joe, Matthew, and the usual gaggle of leftists, so don’t waste your time or breath.

    8. Explain to me how Lauren B’s race goes to a recount when she’s in a district she should win by 7% if she wasn’t traipsing around like a member of the new global elite?

    9. Hey Bob – there’s better evidence of most events in the Bible than there is of 2020 election fraud. Or, for that matter, 2016 election fraud.

      Just remind me …. if Democrats rigged the 2020 election, why did they lost seats in the House and leave themselves with a practically useless majority in the Senate? Why not give yourself a filibuster-proof majority?

  1. Trump was right. Mike Pence lacks courage. While he did one thing right on January 6 to foil an attempted steal of the presidential election, ever since Pence has tried to straddle the high wire as he lays claim to integrity while defending Trump’s policies. He apparently then remains in agreement with the former president’s hands-off approach to Covid as the pandemic began to bloom and eventually claim the lives of more than one million (and counting) Americans. Pence apparently has no problem with the former president’s attempted extortion of Ukraine where US military aid was contingent on finding evidence of Joe Biden’s alleged (and still unproven) illegal acts with his son Hunter. Pence, who claims he is first and foremost a Christian, expresses no qualms with former president’s crass, demeaning attacks on woman, minorities, and perceived enemies dating back to the earliest days of Trump’s entry in the 2016 presidential campaign. Instead of repudiating the president who will undoubtedly will go down in history as the worst to ever occupy the highest office in our nation, Mike Pence assumes the role of an artful dodger. It is an act that is unbecoming of the character traits Pence claims are his hallmark, and leaves us with no other conclusion than he is nothing but another politician hoping to fool the voters on his question to achieve a long pursued goal of winning the presidency.It is a pursuit that will never be realized.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}