Opinion: Pence deserves our respect. But will he get our votes?

It was a not-so-subtle dig at his former running mate, former President Donald Trump, whose next campaign will be driven by reviving the 2020 election, which he lost, and demanding revenge on those who failed to stand. not aligned. None of that seething anger at losing much importance to the average voter, but it certainly helps Trump maintain a pretty formidable political base in a multi-candidate primary.
Pence is right, of course: the general election is about the future. And he earned the right to plead his case after 20 years of service to the Republican Party. His Tuesday speech to the center-right Young America’s Foundation (YAF) ticked all the boxes a conservative would want: economic freedom, strong national defense, pro-life, school choice and more. He even checked the name of his John Deere zero-turn lawn mower, which appeals to suburban dads like me.

But the question is whether Pence’s style and political circumstances will allow him to flourish in the upcoming GOP primary.

Current polls among non-Trump candidates show Pence trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose knack for finding all the right enemies (a vital attribute in GOP politics these days) has put him at the top of the list. listing. In fact, recent polls in Michigan and New Hampshire show DeSantis tied with Trump, even as he trails the former president nationally.

Many Republicans, increasingly focused on 2024, are looking for someone other than Trump, nervous about rolling the dice again on a candidate who has lost the national popular vote in two consecutive elections. I suspect more than one GOP presidential candidate will point out that Trump lost to President Joe Biden who, for many on the right, is the most incompetent president in recent memory. Republicans can maintain an affinity for Trump while acknowledging the inflationary disaster he unleashed on the country by losing to Biden in 2020 and costing the GOP two Senate seats in Georgia.

If Trump had done nothing at all after losing and just headed to the golf course, he would have already chosen his next cabinet. Instead, he broke his oath of office and nearly plunged the country into crisis on January 6. (Thank goodness for Pence’s resolve.) If Trump had gone into hiding after losing, he would currently have a 20-point lead over Biden. Instead, the country is asking both sides to nominate someone – anyone! — other than these two types.

Trump has advantages: money, political infrastructure and a strong core of ride-or-die supporters. More importantly, he is running in a party with a win-win system where a simple plurality of votes is enough to capture all the delegates in a state. In 2016, Trump won 46% of the vote in the general election, but easily won the nomination due to fragmentation caused by a wide range of candidates. It could happen again in 2024, if every Republican planning to enter the race actually runs. There are at least 10, possibly more, highly qualified and viable potential candidates considering applying.
Pence is one such highly qualified option. But its viability is suspect. He’s not exactly Mr. Excitement on the stump, as evidenced by his wooden delivery during the YAF speech. And he has no instinct for the performative, direct politics perfected by Trump and now emulated by DeSantis and others.

I doubt he’s a top contender for the 2024 nomination, but that’s what campaigns are for. Who knows? Perhaps boredom, stability and determination will be back in fashion in the next election.

I know Pence deserves enormous respect for his service to our country and our party, and for standing up to the crowd on January 6. Pence may not be the savior of the Republican Party in 2024, but his message may help pave the way for some other candidate who could move the party — and the country — forward instead of backward.

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