Tight spot: Trump loss complicates Pence’s political future

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For Mike Pence, a second term for President Donald Trump would have been a 2024 ticket to Republican frontrunner status.

But with Trump’s loss—after Pence spent the last four years as his most loyal soldier and the past year doggedly campaigning on his behalf—the vice president is contending with a far less certain future. The situation is made even more complicated by Trump’s refusal to accept defeat and private flirtations with running again himself four years from now.

It’s a balancing act for Pence. He cannot risk alienating supporters of the president who want to see Trump—and by extension the vice president —keep on fighting. But Pence also risks damaging his own brand if he aligns himself too closely with claims of voter fraud that aren’t proven.

“Pence is trying to navigate between the land mines of a president who insists on total fealty and protecting his options for his own political future,” said Dan Eberhart, a prominent Republican donor and Trump backer.

“Any Republican who is thinking about running for office in the next four years is definitely looking at that and trying to figure out which way the political winds are going to blow,” Eberhart said.

Pence has remained largely out of public view since early last Wednesday, when Trump took the stage at a White House election watch party and claimed he had won. In remarks that lasted under a minute, Pence notably did not echo the president’s claim to victory, even as he pledged to “protect the integrity of the vote.”

“We are going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted and until every illegal vote is thrown out,” Pence said Friday in a speech to conservative youth in Virginia, though he gave no evidence of illegal voting. “And whatever the outcome at the end of the process, I promise you: We will never stop fighting to make America great again.”

While other Trump allies have appeared at news conferences and done interviews in recent days trumpeting unsupported allegations of voter fraud, Pence has lain low, seen only at a wreath-laying ceremony on Veterans Day and at a closed-door Senate luncheon. He had planned to go on vacation in Florida but canceled, in part because of bad weather and in part because of the circumstances.

After Pence spent four years applauding Trump and turning TrumpSpeak into something more palatable, allies expect him to approach the next 10 turbulent weeks much the same way: with utmost caution and ensuring minimal daylight between himself and the president. It’s a familiar challenge, though the stakes may be higher than ever.

Pence is widely believed to harbor his own presidential ambitions, though he has always been guarded when asked publicly about his plans. Aides insist his full focus this year has been on 2020 alone. Indeed, there are few people—if any—who worked harder to try to secure Trump a second term.

Between Jan. 1 and Election Day, Pence made 107 trips on behalf of the president, including seven to Michigan, 11 each to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and 13 to Florida. There were a dozen bus tours, appearances at Make America Great Again rallies, events with Women for Trump, Latinos for Trump, Evangelicals for Trump, Farmers & Ranchers for Trump and the Latter-day Saints Coalition. He sat down for a whopping 220 regional media interviews, including 40 in October alone.

More than any other member of the potential 2024 Republican field, Pence’s future is tied to Trump’s—and the president’s flirtations with running could put him in an untenable spot if he is eventually forced to make the almost unthinkable decision to run against his former boss.

Even if Trump steps aside, questions remain about Pence’s appeal. Backers believe he combines a Trump stamp of approval with support among Evangelical and conservative voters who are influential in early voting states like Iowa. Others, however, see him as carrying all of Trump’s baggage without his charisma. Also, he will be 65 on Election Day 2024, and they wonder whether the party will want to nominate another white man in his 60s or 70s.

Still, “the perfect place to be in the Republican Party is to be for Trump’s polices without Trump’s personality. And that pretty much describes Mike Pence,” says Barry Bennett, a longtime Republican strategist who worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

As for Trump’s baggage, Bennett says, “it’s important to remember that Republicans will select their nominee. And there is no Trump baggage. They love him.”

Before the election, Pence aides had discussed a plan to build a political apparatus for the vice president should he decide to run in 2024. They envisioned him holding fundraisers, speaking at party dinners and supporting 2022 candidates. Then, around the 2022 election, he would decide whether to move forward.

Pence, his allies contend, has time to take a wait-and-see approach because he’s already ahead of others in what is expected to be a crowded Republican field. Pence, they note, already has a political action committee, the Great America Committee, as well as a deep fundraising network and close friends who include many of the nation’s governors.

“I think he’s got the blessing of time right now where he can go ahead and put together a small apparatus for a potential run,” said Jon Thompson, who served as Pence’s spokesman on the campaign and previously worked for the Republican Governors Association. “So that gives him some time to really see what Trump and others do.”

Pence spent the four years before he joined the Trump ticket as the governor of Indiana, and six terms in Congress before that. He currently doesn’t own a house. In the short term, he is expected by some to spend some time on money-making ventures, including paid speeches and potentially writing a book.

But for now, he appears willing to go along with Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on the integrity of the election, even if he’s not its public champion.

At a private Senate lunch Tuesday where Pence received a prolonged standing ovation, he told attendees he wanted to keep serving as Senate president and thought he would as U.S. vice president. He signaled the campaign planned to avail itself of all legal remedies to contest the election result, walking through legal strategy though providing no details about alleged irregularities. He also shed no further light on his personal political future, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because the event was supposed to be private.

Pence could still end up being the face of the orderly transfer of power, if Trump himself, as is widely expected, continues to fume over his defeat, even as he prepares to leave office.

Later Friday he was expected to update conservative allies and look ahead to what can be done if the GOP retains its majority in the Senate, with larger minorities in the House and control of state legislatures.

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44 thoughts on “Tight spot: Trump loss complicates Pence’s political future

  1. After RFRA, I was never going to vote for him again. And that was reinforced after working beside Trump’s nationalistic presidential campaign. Just retire.

    1. RFRA? The Religious Freedom Restoration Act…a law that 30 other states and Congress has adopted? A law that was supported by conservatives and liberals alike (and virtually every interest group including the ACLU and every member of Congress) after Employment Division v. Smith was handed down in 1990 and made the passage of RFRAs necessary.

      So many opponents of RFRA have bought into the lie that RFRA’s allow discrimination in areas of public accommodation such as serving people in restaurants or stores or other business establishments. Yet, there is not one single example of that ever happening anywhere in the United States. Whether one can discriminate in such services depends entirely on whether the state or local entity has a civil rights law that prohibits that discrimination. RFRA’s do not override those civil rights law. They never have.

    2. Actually, if you add in the states that have adopted RFRA through judicial decision, I think the total is up to 40 states.

    1. Mike’s going to think he has a future and Trump will insist on one of his children as the candidate in 2024. Maybe they’ll use Mike in 2024 again as VP if they think he can deliver the evangelical vote…

  2. The Elf on the Shelf Pence is useless. Indiana was glad to get rid of him. Look how great he did leading the COVID task force, he wouldn’t even wear a friggin mask! Please don’t send him back to Indiana, we don’t want him!

  3. Mike Pence is a decent man with solid philosophies based on timeless Biblical truths. All you nay-sayers can spend eternity shoveling coal into the flames of hell with Biden/Harris & Company….and you’ll get a preview of that coming attraction as Team B/H and their secular-humanist cronies redirect The United States of America down the road to Venezuela in the next four years…well, Harris will after they jettison Biden, per the plan.

    1. With those Christian credentials maybe Pence can become a megachurch pastor/televangelist.

      .

      Or replace Rush Limbaugh on talk radio.

    2. Mike Pence has done more to hurt the future of Christianity than will ever be known. The younger generation wants no part of evangelical Christianity thanks to his words/deeds….

    1. Where’s your buddy Wesley tonight, Michael? Better ring him up; he wouldn’t want to miss your oh-so-clever, insightful commentary.

  4. Further food for thought for those of you dancing on what you think are Trump and Pence’s graves and celebrating the “victory” of the evil multi-billionaire cabal of George Soros and other Trump and America haters who underwrote this election debacle (and probably the whole Wuhan Virus thing to derail Trump, although I doubt that will ever be proven either way): Two old, timeless adages come to mind: (1) What goes around, comes around…and (2) If they did it FOR you, they can do it TO you. A wise secular-humanist would do well to check his/her/its current smugness at the door.

    1. This IS “what goes around, comes around” Bob. Soros had nothing to do with Trump losing by 5 MILLION votes this time. Also note the electoral college vote: mirror image of 2016.

  5. Chris B: Great commentary. Good to have your positive, irrefutable knowledge that Soros & Company had nothing to do with Trump’s defeat. How did you get so smart? I allowed that such an assertion will likely never be proven either way. Don’t you ever consider that such arrogance will catch up with you some day?

    1. Great to learn that foreign billionaires have total influence over 75 million US voters while the Koch Bros. and the other ultra-conservative American billionaires can only swing 71 million votes.

    1. “Their” minions being those of George Soros, right, Tom? Your sentence construction leaves something to be desired. (I have an idea you haven’t researched George Soros very much…as the old saying goes, “ignorance is bliss,” isn’t it?)

  6. I went to law school with Mike Pence. He as a good guy, very well-liked by his classmates. A humble, down-to-Earth person. But at some point, Mike decided he’d give away his principles, his integrity and decency to go all in on Trump. Actually his shelving of his his principles came before then. He changed a great deal from his early days in Congress to the time he became Governor. And not in a good way. Public office is not worth it if you have to give away everything you believe in to achieve it.

    1. Really, Paul? Is Pence now for abortion on demand? Did he abandon his adherence to the idea of limited government? What, exactly, did he “give up?” You confuse policy with personality. Trump’s personality became a liability; his policies are still popular with Americans who believe in Freedom for everyone…not just freedom for godless, secular-humanist fascists to run roughshod over The United States of America and force their dead-end socialist goals down the throats of freedom-loving Americans.

    2. What policies? You mean the “whatever he says it” platform the GOP had this year?

      Look, I get it. The Republican Party is no longer the party of limited government and free markets. It’s very pro-life (as long as the person is unborn), very much about the rule of law (except the ones they don’t like), and cares deeply about the Constitution (except for the First Amendment). Most of all, it’s the party for people so angry they can’t think straight or see when they’re getting played.

  7. Trump used Pence to get what he wanted. Pence used Trump to get what he wanted. They both used gullible voters in 2016 to get what they wanted. By 2020, there were enough voters tired of the lies and conspiracy theories and Qanonsense that the Trump-Pence con collapsed. Trump will try to find a way to monetize his new-found cult leader status, and whatever he comes up with will not include Pence. But the soon-to-be ex-vice president will convince himself that if he stays loyal to his former master, he will be rewarded with the nomination in 2024. But alas, it will not be. Because loyalty with Trump is a one-way street, all in the direction to – not from – the master. What is it about that universe the everyone seems to have lost the ability to think critically, to discern fact from fiction, and to come to a reasonable judgment about a man’s character and integrity? It simply boggles my mind.

    1. Your mind is easily boggled, Brent. That’s too bad because you fail to understand why Trump/Pence were elected. Here’s why: Enough people were fed up with The Swamp in general, and useless, liberal Democrats like the racist, disingenuous Obama & Company running the country into the ground. Is that too hard to understand?

    2. I disagree, Brent. If Trump had done any sort of minimum viable attempt at controlling the coronavirus, he’d have won re-election. Problem for Trump is, he’d constructed an administration of people whose primary qualification for office was affection for or relation to Donald Trump.

      There’s also millions of people out there who are fed total nonsense. They don’t just disagree that the sky is blue, they want to tell you it’s full of chemtrails that Bill Gates and George Soros are making in the basement of a DC pizza shop (or something like that). Democracy in the US is broken until that gets fixed.

  8. Pence supported a man with no morals and set out to destroy America. Pence sat by and watch a crazy mad man put the US at bottom of the scale in influence. Pence will NEVER recoup from lying with the devil. I was not a Pence fan but after watching him closely destroy the health of our country while pretending to lead the Coronavirus committee but all the while doing what he was told to do by 45 instead of what was morally right. That is not a religious man in my book. He heard the scientist and doctors and made the Choice to do what 45 told him to do all for Politics. And all the whole PRAISING 45 each and every time he spoke. He is a puppet not a leader. If all the religious groups think he is one to follow, I think those groups are nothing but devils in disguise. ANYTHING FOR POLITICS and controlling. My faith is with GOD not carnival barkers.

    1. “I was not a Pence fan” says it all, Pamela. You can stop right there, having shown your hand.

      If your faith is with GOD, how can you say Trump has NO morals when he was the first sitting President to attend the annual March for Life pro-life rally following the disastrous 1973 Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade abortion decision? And Trump has done more for pro-life causes than anyone I can remember in recent history.

      Let me guess, you voted for the Biden-Harris pro-abortion-on-demand-at-taxpayer-expense ticket, right? Tell me how that comports with your faith in the Creator of Life.

  9. Thanks for the warning on the inbox link, Joe. B.

    ADMINISTRATOR / MODERATOR: Please delete that comment containing the link to my inbox. That was a mistaken link! Thank you.

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