Former Vice President Mike Pence is expected to soon announce a long-running campaign for the White House against the president he served under, portraying himself as a “classic conservative” who would return the Republican party to its pre-Trump roots, according to people close to Mr. Pence.
Mr. Pence is trying to make room in the Republican primary field by appealing to evangelicals, taking a hard line in support of a federal abortion ban, promoting free trade and pushing back against Republican attempts to shut down big business on ideological grounds. to check. He faces major challenges, is far behind in the polls and has made no effort to channel the populist energies overtaking the Republican Party.
In a sign that his campaign will be announced in the coming weeks, a pro-Pence super PAC called Committed to America is being set up. Veteran Republican operative Scott Reed, who led Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign and was longtime chief political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will lead the group alongside Jeb Hensarling, a close friend of Mr. served him in Congress. .
Mr. Pence is in the very unusual position of being a former vice president trying to push back into the national conversation. The political profile he built under former President Donald J. Trump was more supplicant than standard-bearer, at least until their relationship broke up on January 6, 2021. He would start well behind Mr. Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. in early 2024 national and state polls of Republican primary voters.
Pence’s candidacy will focus heavily on winning over evangelical voters, especially in Iowa, where the super PAC is already preparing to host all 99 counties. The Iowa caucuses will be the first contests for Republican presidential candidates early next year.
“Iowa feels more like Indiana than any other state in the union,” Mr. Pence, a former governor of Indiana, said in a recent interview. “It just feels like coming home.”
In a recent phone call with reporters, Mr Reed, who will help run the pro-Pence super PAC, described the Iowa primary as the “defining event” of Mr Pence’s candidacy and foreshadowed an old-fashioned blitz of retail politics . “We’re going to organize Iowa, all 99 counties, like we’re running him for county sheriff,” he said.
If Mr. Trump represents the populist New Right, Mr. Pence is preparing to run for president in the guise of Ronald Reagan. His team’s unlikely bet is that a “Reagan coalition” — made up of the Christian right, fiscal conservatives and national security hawks — could be reassembled within a party transformed by Trump.
“We must resist the siren song of populism that is not tied to conservative principles,” Pence said in the interview.
In a speech Tuesday night in New Hampshire focusing on economics, Mr. Pence is expected to call for “free trade with free nations,” according to a person familiar with the draft.
He bills himself as a “Reagan conservative” and deploys starkly different positions to Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis on the key policy issues that will shape the 2024 Republican race. But running against Mr. Trump so directly will force Mr. Pence to confront the contradictions inherent in serving as the president’s pumpjack for four years during the Trump administration’s turmoil.
“This campaign will reintroduce Mike Pence to the country as his own man,” Mr. Reed said. “People know Mike Pence. They just don’t know him well.”
It remains to be seen how often Mr. Pence will discuss the moment that has defined him for the past two years: his January 6 rejection of Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign to get him to overstep his constitutional authority, while victory of President Biden’s Electoral College was certified.
That issue is not a winning issue with the Republican Party base. But Mr. Pence’s team believes there are plenty of Republicans that could be won over by Mr. Pence describing the moment as adhering to constitutional principles.
Mr. Pence is almost alone among the future Republican field in advocating positions that were once standard issue for his party.
Case in point: Mr. Pence says Social Security and Medicare should be scaled back as part of any serious plan to tackle the national debt. Before Trump entered national politics in 2015, cutting rights programs was Republican orthodoxy. But Mr. Trump changed that. The former president pledged in his third campaign not to scrap either program, and he has attacked Mr. DeSantis on the issue, claiming that the governor would scrap those programs.
“It is quite remarkable that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have the same stance on fiscal solvency: the stance that they will never touch Social Security and health care,” Pence said.
Mr Pence said he would “explain to people” how the “debt crisis” would affect their children and grandchildren. He says his plan to cut benefits doesn’t apply to Social Security and Medicare payments for people who retire today or who retire in the next 25 years. But he will pitch ideas to cut costs for people under 40.
Mr. Pence also draws a stark contrast to foreign policy. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis have questioned whether the United States should support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion. Mr. Pence sees the battle as a modern version of the Cold War.
“There is a movement in the Republican Party that wants to abandon our pledge to be the leader of the free world and question why we are providing military support to Ukraine,” Pence said.
Unlike nearly all major Republicans running for president, Pence still defends former President George W. Bush’s decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, though he acknowledged in the interview that the “weapons of mass destruction” intelligence that Bush used to call the The Iraqi invasion was wrong.
“In the aftermath of September 11, the president formulated a doctrine that I fully supported,” said Mr. Pence, “which was that it is harder for your enemies to use force when they run backwards.”
Mr. Pence also opposes the anti-corporate furies that dominate Republican politics today, arguing that limited government means you shouldn’t interfere with the private sector. He was one of the first major Republicans to criticize Mr. DeSantis for his fight against Disney.
According to New Right politicians such as Mr. DeSantis, conservatives with limited government are naïve in the fact that liberals have overtaken major American institutions – academia, Fortune 500 companies, the news media – and that conservatives must use the power of government to to fight back .
Mr. Pence will run as a staunch social conservative, contrasting Mr. Trump on abortion policy. At his town hall with DailyExpertNews last week, Mr. Trump repeatedly declined, saying he would support a federal ban on abortion. He has said the matter should be left to the states.
Mr. Pence unashamedly supports a national ban on abortion.
“For the former president and others who are striving for the highest office in the country to delegate that issue to states — only I think it’s wrong,” Mr. Pence said. His senior adviser, Marc Short, said Mr Pence viewed a 15-week national ban as a “minimum threshold” and would support federal efforts to “protect life from conception”.
There is little chance that Mr. Pence will receive much support from members of Congress. His team insists that Mr. Pence does not need elected officials to vouch for his credentials. Still, it’s also unclear how many Republican donors will support his bid. An early sign of interest came in Dallas last week when billionaire Ross Perot Jr., a real estate developer and son of the former presidential candidate, hosted a luncheon for Mr. Pence with other major donors, according to two people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
Among the super PAC hires Mr. Pence supports, Bobby Saparow, who ran the ground race for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s successful 2022 re-election campaign, is one of the few bright spots for Republicans in the meantime. Mr Saparow promised to “replicate” the effort with Mr Pence.
For now, Mr. Pence is signaling his willingness to do without a staple of Republican presidential campaigns in the modern era: Mr. Trump’s crushing politics and ongoing warfare against the media.
“People want us to put back a threshold of civility in public discourse,” Mr Pence said. “And when I say that, when I tell people I think democracy depends on a big dose of civility, I get a very visceral response from the crowd.”