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The impending end of Donald Trump’s presidency has brought intense focus to what he will do after he leaves office, a question clouded by his continued refusal to accept his loss to President-elect Joe Biden. A similar, if less attention-grabbing, question hangs over Vice President Mike Pence, who will be out of public office for the first time in 20 years on Jan. 20.
Pence represented Indiana in the House of Representatives for 12 years before becoming the state’s governor in 2013. He abandoned his pursuit of a second term when Trump selected him as his running mate in 2016. As vice president, Pence has been a loyal defender of Trump throughout the commander in chief’s many scandals. He assumed the most critical role of his tenure in February, when he was named head of the White House coronavirus task force.
Though Pence hasn’t publicly stated an intent to run, there’s a broad consensus among political insiders that he has been eyeing a presidential bid in 2024 for some time.
Why there’s debate
Pence’s prospects are strong if he chooses to run for president in four years, some experts say. In general, vice presidents start the presidential race with an advantage over their competition after years in the spotlight. Pence is the ideal candidate to lead Republicans after Trump, some argue. They contend that he has been loyal to the president in a way that will please the GOP base, but can appeal to traditional conservatives and swing voters with a less caustic approach to government. A number of polls show Pence to be Republican voters’ top choice in 2024, assuming Trump himself doesn’t run again.
The uncertainty of Trump’s future makes Pence’s odds difficult to gauge. Trump deciding to back another candidate or run himself in 2024 could torpedo Pence’s chances. While he has stayed out of the president’s crosshairs for the past four years, Pence’s constitutional duty to certify Biden’s election win before Congress could create animosity with Trump’s most loyal fans.
Beyond Trump’s influence, some pundits see reasons to question Pence’s viability as a presidential candidate. His muted personality may not be enough to fire up the GOP base, and his association with Trump could turn away moderate voters. Pence’s role leading the government’s bungled coronavirus response may also sink his chances.
Though Trump and some of his allies in the GOP continue to mount legal challenges to overturn the result, including one aimed at Pence himself, none of those efforts are likely to stop Congress from finalizing the Electoral College vote on Wednesday with Pence presiding over the proceedings.
Pence is the ideal candidate for Republicans in 2024
“Republicans can continue to embrace Trump’s policies while getting behind someone without his baggage. Who might that be? My view of the perfect candidate is Vice President Mike Pence, who has been loyal to the president without the name-calling, while preserving his own personality, dignity, Christian faith and kindness.” — Cal Thomas, Fox News
Pence should be considered the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination
“Vice President Pence is in the top class of 2024 GOP contenders as the Trump era nears its end.” — Niall Stanage, The Hill
Former vice presidents have a huge advantage when they pursue the White House
“Vice presidents almost always win presidential primaries. They can be dismissed by pundits as uninspiring second bananas. But veeps who seek the ultimate promotion begin every presidential primary with a four-to-eight-year head start over their competitors in media coverage, travel, voter contact, donor lists and perceived readiness.” — Bill Scher, Politico
Pence has artfully avoided the pitfalls that have sunk other Trump allies
“Pence has done well to stay on the right side of Trump without becoming a snarling and profane apostate. That’s pretty impressive in terms of contorting himself into the one shape that may be acceptable to a majority of the voters.” — Political analyst Michael D’Antonio to Guardian
Pence’s constitutional duties could sink his political prospects
“[If] Trump would view Pence’s fulfillment of his duties as “the ultimate betrayal,” how can the vice-president avoid losing his presidential viability among Trump’s supporters? Could it be that after working so tirelessly to position himself as Trump’s successor, he finds it was all for naught?” — Martin Longman, Washington Monthly
There’s no guarantee Pence would receive Trump’s backing
“I imagine that a Pence candidacy, with a Trump endorsement, would be very difficult to defeat in a Republican nomination contest. I’m not convinced that Trump will back Pence, but this surely explains why Pence is doing everything he can to win Trump’s favor.” — U.S. politics lecturer Richard Johnson to Newsweek
No one would stand a chance against Trump if he chose to run again
“Looming over Pence and the rest of the presidential hopefuls is Trump’s talk of running again in 2024. His defeat means he could seek a second nonconsecutive term ... which would gum up efforts by other candidates to mount campaigns and create a messy Republican primary season.” — Lauren Egan, NBC News
Trump’s election loss dealt a major blow to Pence’s chances
“For Mike Pence, a second term for President Donald Trump would have been a 2024 ticket to Republican frontrunner status. But with Trump’s loss — after Pence spent the last four years as his most loyal soldier and the past year doggedly campaigning on his behalf — the vice president is contending with a far less certain future.” — Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller, Associated Press
Pence won’t be able to escape his failure to lead the country through the pandemic
“Pence could be committing the biggest political misstep of his career if he continues to sit on the sidelines as COVID-19 cases and deaths soar. ... If there was ever a time for Pence to stand up in the face of Trump’s petulance and exhibit compassion and urgency for the American people, it is now.” — Suzette Hackney, USA Today
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