Mike Pence looks for all the world like a presidential candidate in waiting.
The former vice president is making stops in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire and, as the New York Times reported earlier this week, held a retreat for donors and political allies last month in Utah.
These are the sorts of things that one does when they are looking at running for president. In fact, other Republicans mentioned as possible 2024 contenders – including Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Florida Sen. Rick Scott – are doing much the same as Pence.
There’s just one sticky wicket when it comes to imagining the prospect of Pence running in 2024: Donald Trump – and the Republican Party base loyal to the former President – hates him.
Trump has repeatedly made his views on Pence clear.
“I’m very disappointed in Mike, as a lot of people are,” Trump said in May. “He’s just very greatly disappointed me. He had a great opportunity and all he had to do was just send it back to the legislatures, let them decide. … So I’m very disappointed at the stance he took.”
This all dates back to Pence’s refusal overturn the results of the free and fair 2020 election on January 6, 2021. Trump continues to spin the lie that the election was stolen from him.
Pence, meanwhile, has defended his decision by insisting he had no legal power to overturn the Electoral College results (which is correct). Since then, he’s tried to focus on the future of the GOP, not the past.
The problem for Pence is that Trump (and those who follow him) are only focused on the past. And they view Pence as having fundamentally failed Trump in his moment of greatest need.
Sure, there are pockets within the Republican Party that aren’t friendly to Trump. But they are pockets. And small ones at that. Trump is still viewed favorably by more than 3 in 4 Republicans (77% in a national September Marquette Law School poll). A majority of Republicans, in most surveys, still want him to run for president again in 2024 (66% in the Marquette poll).
Given all of that, it’s very, very hard to see where Pence fits into a field with Trump. Running as the sworn enemy to the overwhelming favorite is not really a position of strength.
And even if Trump doesn’t run – which seems very unlikely – the GOP field is certain to be filled with candidates who are desperately trying to attach themselves to his legacy and, more importantly, his base. Pence seems doomed on that front before the race even begins.
So, why go through all of the machinations and jockeying – and maybe even running – if you are Pence?
Well, on the most basic level, because Pence wants to be president. And was very close to the job for four years serving under Trump.
But also because he knows that if he doesn’t run in 2024, it’s likely that he will be too far removed from the world of politics to run in 2028 or beyond.
Pence may even be looking at the 2024 race as a way to exorcise the Trump demons – let those in Trumpworld take their shots at him in that race and then make another run in four or eight years’ time with the slate wiped (mostly) clean. (Pence is only 63 years old.)
The point here is that Pence would run because of what he feels is necessity – under the belief that waiting any longer would diminish his chances. But, the way I see it, he already is the longest of long shots.