Political expert on Mike Pence’s historic presidential run
June 6, 2023
Former U.S. vice president and Indiana governor Mike Pence is expected to announce an historic presidential run Wednesday — historic because he’ll be vying against his one-time boss, former President Donald Trump, for the Republican nomination in 2024.
“There is no instance that I am aware of in which a former president and his former vice president have run against each other for a major party nomination,” said Virginia Tech political expert Karen Hult, discussing the importance and implications of Pence throwing his hat in the ring. “More generally, it is rare for former presidents to run again. Exceptions include Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Trump. Except for Cleveland, who won a second term, the others prior to Trump lost their parties’ nominations.”
What advantages and disadvantages does Pence have?
“Pence begins with the same strength and weakness: his name recognition is high, but many Trump supporters view him with considerable hostility, other Republicans doubt he is electable, and at least some Democrats who approved of his handling of the Electoral College vote count have been disappointed by his tardy refusal to criticize the former President. Meanwhile, most news media attention has been lavished on Donald Trump and the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. That former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley entered the race means that another long shot candidate is competing for the space that Pence perhaps hopes to occupy. Senator Tim Scott and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson also may be eyeing that lane.”
What can be deduced about Pence’s campaign strategy?
“Pence has been highlighting his positions as a conservative evangelical Christian, as a protector of Social Security and Medicare, and as a calm leader and steady hand equipped to pursue conservative legislative and administrative policies. He is pursuing a strategy that begins with the early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. The Iowa caucuses could be pivotal, with white Christian evangelicals active and well-placed in the state Republican Party. Pence hopes to be 2024’s Iowa ‘surprise.’”
Could Pence’s association with the Trump administration be a liability?
“Pence already has been trying to put distance between himself and former President Trump. He attended the Club for Growth donor summit, and the Club has proclaimed that it supports any Republican other than Trump. Pence is well-positioned on a series of ‘culture war’ concerns that appeal to many Republican activists, such as abortion, parental control of children’s education, and subsidies for private and parochial schools. The challenge for Pence, and others, is to focus on segments of Trump’s supporters and seek to appear as both more electable and, possibly, less incendiary than the former president.”
Karen Hult teaches political science at Virginia Tech and serves as chair of its Center for Public Administration & Policy, with expertise in the U.S. Presidency, federal and state politics, policy, and governance, and federal and state courts. See her bio.
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