Pence Launches 2024 Presidential Bid 06/07 06:07
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Former Vice President Mike Pence promised "the best
days of the greatest nation on earth are yet to come" in a video released
Wednesday formally launching his campaign for the Republican nomination for
"Different times call for different leadership," Pence, who served four
years alongside President Donald Trump, says in the video, released via Fox
News and Twitter hours ahead of a kickoff event in Des Moines. "Today our party
and our country need a leader that'll appeal, as Lincoln said, to the better
angels of our nature."
While it would be "easy to stay on the sidelines," he adds, "that's not how
I was raised. That's why today, before God and my family, I'm announcing I'm
running for president of the United States."
Pence is staking his presidential hopes on Iowa as he launches a campaign
that will make him the first vice president in modern history to take on his
former running mate.
Pence's campaign will also test the party's appetite for a socially
conservative, mild-mannered and deeply religious candidate who has denounced
the populist tide that has swept through his party under Trump. And it will
show whether Pence still has a political future after Jan. 6, 2021, with a
large portion of GOP voters still believing Trump's lies that the 2020 election
was stolen and that Pence had the power to reject the results of the election,
won by Democrat Joe Biden.
Pence and his advisers see Iowa -- the state that will cast the first votes
of the GOP nominating calendar -- as key to his potential pathway to the
nomination. Its caucus-goers include a large portion of evangelical Christian
voters, whom they see as a natural constituency for Pence. They also think
Pence, who represented Indiana in Congress and as governor, is a good
personality fit with the Midwestern state.
"We believe the path to victory runs through Iowa and all of its 99
counties," said Scott Reed, co-chair of a super PAC that launched last month to
support Pence's candidacy.
Iowa has typically been seen as a launching pad for presidential candidates,
delivering momentum, money and attention to hopefuls who win or defy
expectations. But recent past winners including Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and
Mike Huckabee have failed to ultimately win the nomination.
And Pence faces steep challenges. He enters the race as among the best-known
Republican candidates in a crowded GOP field that now includes Trump, Florida
Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina
Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov.
But Pence -- seen by Trump critics as complicit with his most indefensible
actions and maligned by Trump loyalists as a traitor -- is also saddled with
high unfavorable ratings.
A CNN poll conducted last month found 45% of Republicans and
Republican-leaning independents said they would not support Pence under any
circumstance. Only 16% said the same about Trump.
Pence's favorability has also slipped in Iowa, according to The Des Moines
Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
Shortly after leaving office, in June 2021, 86% of Iowa Republicans said
they had a favorable view of Pence. But the Register's March Iowa Poll showed
that figure had dropped to 66%. The poll also found Pence with higher
unfavorable ratings than all of the other candidates it asked about, including
Trump and DeSantis, with 26% of Republicans polled saying they have a
"somewhat" or "very" unfavorable view of him.
And just 58% of Iowa evangelicals said they had favorable feelings toward
Pence -- a particularly disappointing number, given his campaign's strategy.
But Pence, who has already visited Iowa more than a dozen times since
leaving office, has also received a warm welcome from voters during his trips.
During a "Roast and Ride" event over the weekend that drew a long list of 2024
candidates, Pence stood out as the only candidate to actually mount a Harley
and participate in the event's annual motorcycle ride. When he arrived at a
barbecue at the state fairgrounds, he moved easily from table to table, warmly
greeting and chatting with attendees.
But there remains lingering skepticism of Pence among many Republican voters
who adhere to the baseless but persistent conspiracy theory that the 2020
election was stolen. Many who cling to the falsehood believe Pence was
complicit in the plot to deny Trump a second term because he refused Trump's
pressure campaign to reject the Electoral College vote when he presided over a
joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump's supporters
violently stormed the building.
Pence advisers say they recognize the challenge and intend to explain to
voters directly that Pence was adhering to his constitutional duty and never
had the power to impact the vote in his ceremonial role.
"I think it's something you have to walk straight through," said his
longtime adviser Marc Short.
Beyond Jan. 6, his team sees their primary goal as reintroducing Pence to a
country that largely knows him as Trump's second-in-command. They want to
remind voters of his time in congressional leadership and as governor and are
planning a campaign heavy with town halls, house parties and visits to local
diners and Pizza Ranch restaurants --- more intimate settings that will help
voters get to know him personally.
"People have seen Mike Pence the vice president. I think what people are
going to see is Mike Pence the person," said Todd Hudson, the speaker of the
House in Indiana and a longtime Pence friend who has signed on to help with
outreach to state legislators. "I'm super excited for people to get to know the
Mike Pence that I know, who's funny, who's just a wonderful person... the more
relaxed Mike Pence."
Reed believes there is a strong desire in the party for a candidate like
Pence who espouses Reagan-style conservatism, including traditional social
values, hawkish foreign policy and small government economics.
"We think this nomination fight is going to be an epic battle for the heart
and soul of the conservative, traditional wing of the Republican Party. And
Pence is going to campaign as a classic conservative. His credentials are
unmatched," he said.
Unlike Trump and DeSantis, Pence has argued that cuts to Social Security and
Medicare must be on the table and has blasted those who have questioned why the
U.S. should continue to send aid to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression.
"We are not going to try to out-Trump Pence. Everybody else is," Reed said.
"Pence is the only candidate running not to be Trump's VP."