WASHINGTON – Vice presidents often face unique problems when seeking the presidency, but no one in political history has been like Former Vice President Mike Pence.
No former vice president has ever participated in a contested primary against the president who elected him, but Pence could end up running against him. Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
No vice president-turned-presidential candidate has faced such harsh attacks from a former president and his party allies as Pence does, in his case for his refusal to comply with Trump’s demands that he throw electoral votes who chose Joe Biden.
If he did run for president, Pence would be caught between two worlds, analysts said: Trumpers who hate him for alleged “disloyalty” and anti-Trumpers who dislike him because of his long-term loyalty to Trump.
Pence aides said that while the former vice president hasn’t made any final decisions on 2024, they believe he would appeal to a broad swath of Republicans who don’t belong on either side of Trump, those who appreciate his long years of fighting for conservative causes.
“The vast majority of Republican voters like constitutional conservatives and people who are true to their oaths,” said Marc Short, an adviser to Pence.
In short, an unprecedented challenge.
“Pence is clearly in an unusual position,” said Joel Goldstein, a law professor at Saint Louis University who specializes in the history of the vice presidency. “It is certainly unprecedented under the circumstances: January 6 was unprecedented.”
Walking a fine line
As he contemplates his future, Pence is doing the kinds of things potential presidential candidates do: traveling around the country giving speeches, endorsing candidates in the midterms and writing a memoir to be published on November 15.
He has also walked a fine line with Trump.
Pence has said Trump was “wrong” to assert that the vice president had the legal authority to discard electoral votes. Pence also criticized the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters, some of whom threatened Pence’s life, calling it a “dark day” in the nation’s history.
At the same time, Pence has refrained from directly attacking Trump for January 6 or much longer, regardless of reports that Trump spoke approvingly. calls to “hang Mike Pence”, according to witness testimony before the special House committee investigating the Capitol riots. Instead, Pence prefers to exaggerate the economic and foreign policies of the “Trump-Pence administration.”
testimonial before the january 6 committee it hasn’t appreciably changed Pence’s approach.
Pence and Trump have engaged in proxy battles in the Republican primaries, and Pence has done well. During the May primary in Georgia, Pence endorsed incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, who easily defeated Trump-backed challenger David Perdue.
Pence and Trump have another round next week in Arizona. Trump Supports Hardline Conservative Kari Lake in GOP Gubernatorial Primary; Pence is backing a more traditional Republican, Karrin Taylor Robson.
Former Republican running mates also endorse different candidates for governor in Wisconsin.
On the campaign trail, Pence has occasionally criticized Trump for continuing to protest the 2020 election. Pence said Republicans should look for candidates — meaning him — who talk about the future.
During his travels, Pence has been met with condemnation from some Trump supporters.
Wendy Rogers, a notably outspoken state senator in Arizona, tweeted that “Pence let Biden steal the election then left to the fraudulent inauguration”. He also said that Pence “is not welcome in free Arizona! We don’t want the swamp!”
In an appearance the previous Tuesday the Young America FoundationPence downplayed any division with Trump when asked about it by an audience member.
“I don’t know if the president and I differ on the issues, but we may differ on the approach,” Pence said. “I really think elections are about the future.”
The questioner, Andrew Breschard, a senior at Gettysburg College, said he thought Pence might be more critical of Trump. But he said he understands the difficult political position Pence finds himself in, given Trump’s popularity with Republicans.
Breschard, who specializes in political science and public policy, said he personally believes Trump’s time is up and Republicans should look for another presidential candidate. Although Pence is “definitely an underdog,” he said, the former vice president is a true conservative whose case should be heard by voters.
“I think he made the right decision on Jan. 6,” Breschard said.
The story: The vice presidency is problematic
When the United States was born, the vice presidency was the last rung to the presidency.
Under the initial rules of the electoral collegethe candidate who received the second highest number of electoral votes automatically became vice president, regardless of whether he was allied with the presidential winner.
This is how John Adams became George Washington’s vice president and how political rival Thomas Jefferson became Adams’s vice president when the latter won the presidency in 1796.
The complexities of the Electoral College also explain why Jefferson and Aaron Burr, his supposed running mate, tied for the presidential vote in 1800. Burr refused to give way to Jefferson, and the House of Representatives had to resolve the election by voting to install to Jefferson. as president.
Congress and the states responded by passing the 12th amendment to the United States Constitution, changing the rules of the Electoral College. It required electors to cast two separate votes for the offices of president and vice president.
‘I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead’
During the early years, the vice presidency became a secondary post, with office holders having little more to do than preside over the US Senate and cast an occasional tie-breaking vote. Vice presidents moved into the White House only if the occupant died.
In 1848, Senator Daniel Webster turned down the chance to be vice president, saying, “I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead and in my coffin,” according to the White House Historical Association.
Vice President Martin Van Buren won the 1836 presidential election, but that didn’t happen again until George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988.
The closest parallel to a race between Pence and Trump would be in 1940, when Vice President John Nance Garner, who once described the vice president job as “not worth a pitcher of hot piss,” announced that he was willing to be President candidate.
But that was before incumbent President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made it known that he was willing to seek a third term. Once that happened, FDR swamped Garner and other candidates at that year’s Democratic convention.
“For much of our history, the vice presidency was not a presidential springboard,” said Goldstein, a historian of the vice presidency and author of “The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden.”
The vice presidency became more prestigious in the decades after World War II, in part because presidents began to give more responsibility to their running mates and in part because of increased media attention.
Another candidate who served as vice president, elder george bushreached the White House in 1988. He did the same former Vice President Joe Bidenwinning the 2020 election that Trump tried to reverse, an effort that trapped Pence in what has become an unprecedented political situation in 2024.
Pence the underdog
Although Trump supporters will likely attack Pence if he runs, there is little sign that many other Republicans will support him. Polls from early 2024 put the former vice president in single digits, far behind Trump and another potential challenger, Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis.
Rich Galen, a former Republican political strategist who left the party after Trump’s 2016 nomination, said “vice presidents have a tough road ahead of them,” especially Pence. “I’m not sure how much independent support he’s had,” Galen said.
Lara Brown, director and professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, said Pence’s basic problem is that “Trump supporters who believe the 2020 election was stolen remain angry at him,” while that “conservatives who have long rejected Trump remain angry at Pence for his 4 1/2 years out of 4 1/2 years of helping Trump.”
“This leaves Pence in no man’s land when it comes to building a solid base of conservatives to support his presidential bid,” he said.
Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, said Pence’s decision to uphold the law and refuse to interfere in the counting of electoral votes could work against him in the Republican primary.
“Pence’s chances are not good,” he said. “At a key moment, he put country before party. For most Republican voters, that’s a liability.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Pence’s presidential race could face Trump-sized problems