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Why Is Mike Pence Running?

AP Photo/John Minchillo

In a video unveiled on Wednesday morning, former Vice President Mike Pence declared his intention to run for the presidency, setting the stage for his official campaign kick-off at an Iowa rally later in the day. He now has a campaign website, complete with a logo that looks like it was designed in the 1980s. Maybe that was point. I don’t know.

“The American dream is being crushed under runaway inflation,” Pence says in his campaign launch video. Wages are dropping. Recession is looming. Our southern border is under siege, and the enemies of freedom are on the march around the world, and where, still, timeless American values are under assault as never before.”

He continued, “Today our party in our country needs a leader that will appeal, as Lincoln said, ‘To the better angels of our nature.’ I have long believed to whom much is given much will be required. My family and I have been blessed beyond measure with opportunities to serve this nation, and it’d be easy to stay on the sidelines, but 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. We can bring this country back.”

In 2016, I was less than thrilled about Trump’s candidacy. I wasn’t particularly fond of his style and, at the time, was convinced he was a closet New York liberal. I came around eventually, but still took comfort in the fact that my vote for Trump was also a vote for Pence, whose style and demeanor were more in line with what I was comfortable with.

Under different circumstances, Pence would be an easy choice for Republican voters, but frankly, his chances of winning the nomination are virtually non-existent. So, I can’t help but wonder why he’s running. Ron DeSantis is easily the most formidable challenger to Trump and, at least in national polls, is still far behind him. But Pence is running even further behind, coming in at single digits in GOP primary polling. Given his name recognition alone, he should be polling higher, and that tells you just how effectively Trump poisoned Pence with GOP voters for not stopping the certification of the 2020 Electoral College vote. Contrary to what Trump has said, there was nothing Pence could have done to stop it—his role in the process was ceremonial, and I’ll continue to defend Pence on this point because it’s correct.

Pence had been hinting for some time that he was considering a run for the presidency in 2024, and, as much as I think he’d be a great candidate under different circumstances, his candidacy is actually problematic for the GOP. Pence and Trump running against each other in an open primary is going to be ugly. Pitting a former president and his vice-president against each other is going to make it impossible to focus on what really matters in this election: the future. Republicans don’t need a fight over the Trump years or the 2020 election. They need to be focused on cleaning up the mess created by Joe Biden. Pence must know that his entry into the race will only make it harder for the GOP primaries to be focused on the future, and he must know that he has virtually no chance of winning the nomination.

So, again, why is he running? The only conclusion I can come to is that Pence hopes he can undermine Trump by forcing him to dwell on the 2020 election. Could it work? Maybe. Polls have shown that GOP voters want to move on from the 2020, and I can’t blame them. But Pence must also know that the voters that may get turned off by Trump rehashing the 2020 election won’t vote for him. If anything, they’ll gravitate to DeSantis, who has the best shot at beating Trump.

So the only logical conclusion here is that Pence is running to stop Trump. Will this strategy work? I’m not sure, and the prospect of the GOP primaries being a debate over 2020 won’t be good for the GOP in general. I’m inclined to believe that regardless of his intentions, we were better off with him staying out of the race.

 

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