Former Vice President Mike Pence has laid pretty low since leaving the White House in January amid controversy after going ahead and counting electoral votes from states that changed voting rules ahead of Election Day.
But he’s been steadily re-emerging in recent weeks — joining the Heritage Foundation, writing op-eds, and giving speeches because, many believe, he is laying the groundwork for a 2024 GOP presidential bid.
The Associated Press reports why this could be problematic:
When former President Donald Trump was asked to list those he considers the future leaders of the Republican Party, he quickly rattled off names including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. Conspicuously absent from the list: Mike Pence. …
…Trump’s neglect in mentioning Pence during a podcast interview earlier this month signals the former vice president’s unique challenge. For someone who built a reputation as one of Trump’s most steadfast supporters, Pence is now viewed with suspicion among many Republicans for observing his constitutional duty in January to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration, a decision that still has Trump fuming.
If Pence is to win the 2024 primary, that would mean, first and foremost, that Trump has decided not to seek a second term (he’ll be 78 then; if he doesn’t run next time around then there is virtually no chance he’ll run again, period). It will also mean repairing his image with still-raw Trump voters and supporters who are convinced that the former president was robbed of a second term and that Pence, as official tabulator of the electoral votes, was the last line of defense to prevent the election from being stolen.
Still, many Republican operatives believe Pence has the talent to come back for the win.
“Anybody who can pull off an endorsement of Ted Cruz and become Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee should not be counted out,” Republican strategist Alice Stewart, who worked for Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign when Pence gave the Texas Republican his blessing, told the AP. “He has a way of splitting hairs and threading the needle that has paid off in the past.”
“I think 2024′s a long time away and if Mike Pence runs for president he will appeal to the Republican base in a way that will make him a strong contender,” GOP Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana told the AP.
Banks, who is chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and has already signed off on backing Pence in 2024, added: “If and when Mike Pence steps back up to the plate, I think he will have strong appeal among Republicans nationwide.”
It certainly seems like Pence is looking to throw his name into the hat. The AP quoted sources who said that he and Trump have talked often since they both left office, and Pence is making all the moves to raise his profile slowly but surely. Plus, there is no question he was part of the economic, military, and foreign policy revivals seen during the Trump years.
“He’s doing what he needs to be doing to lay the groundwork in the event he wants to set up an exploratory committee,” Stewart said. “You have to make money, lay the groundwork, gauge the support and then pull the trigger.”